Twitter seeks outside help to combat ‘abuse’ and ‘misinformation’

'We didn't fully predict or understand the real-world negative consequences', CEO Jack Dorsey says

Jeremy B. White
San Francisco
Thursday 01 March 2018 23:32 GMT
CEO Jack Dorsey said Twitter needs a new approach
CEO Jack Dorsey said Twitter needs a new approach (REUTERS/Lucas Jackson)

Acknowledging that Twitter had become a conduit for abuse and falsehoods, the company’s CEO has sought proposals for an overhaul to make the platform more “healthy”.

In a series of tweets, CEO Jack Dorsey said the social media site’s vast reach had “real-world negative consequences”. For much of the past year, Twitter has been on the defensive amid revelations that Russian trolls exploited the service and complaints that the platform lends a megaphone to bigotry.

“We have witnessed abuse, harassment, troll armies, manipulation through bots and human-coordination, misinformation campaigns, and increasingly divisive echo chambers,” CEO Jack Dorsey said on Twitter. “We aren’t proud of how people have taken advantage of our service, or our inability to address it fast enough."

Undercutting Twitter’s efforts to combat abuse, Mr Dorsey said, was the fact that its strategy has been largely reactive and emphasised “removing content against our terms”.

In recent months, Twitter has updated its rules on prohibited content that encourages violence or constitutes sexual harassment. Facing rising anger about prominent bigots broadcasting their views via tweets, it struck the blue verification check marks from far-right figures’ accounts. Last month, it suspended more than 1,000 accounts it said were linked to Russia.

Rather than focusing on banned content, Mr Dorsey said, he hoped to shift to “building a systemic framework to help encourage more healthy debate, conversations, and critical thinking”.

Doing so would entail gauging “conversational health” by ensuring users were civil, operating from shared facts and exposed to a variety of opinion, Mr Dorsey said. Saying Twitter did not yet know how to measure, he shared a request for proposals aimed at instituting “a rigorous and independently vetted set of metrics to measure the health of public conversation on Twitter”.

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“Twitter’s health will be built and measured by how we help encourage more healthy debate, conversations, and critical thinking; conversely, abuse, spam and manipulation will detract from it,” a blog post said, calling for outside experts “to help us identify how we measure the health of Twitter, keep us accountable to share our progress with the world and establish a way forward for the long-term”.

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