FRANCISCO — Twitter has struggled to regulate the ShareBlue bots,
alt-right agitators and run-of-the-mill trolls that have overrun its
platform. Now, the company is asking for help.
a time when tech giants are under heavy scrutiny to fix their
platforms for users and weed out bad actors, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey
on Thursday said he isn't quite sure what will work for Twitter and
asked for help in solving its systemic issues.
focused most of our efforts on removing content against our terms,
instead of building a systemic framework to help encourage more
healthy debate, conversations and critical thinking. This is the
approach we now need," he said in a Twitter
we were asked a simple question: could we measure the 'health' of
conversation on Twitter?" he continued. "This felt immediately
tangible as it spoke to understanding a holistic system rather than
just the problematic parts."
thread is perhaps the most direct and honest the company has been
about its vulnerability to abuse, which festered long before Russian
bots and election meddling were in the public consciousness.
now wants to find a way to measure the quality of the conversation,
in much the same way Facebook
CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced his new focus
on making the Facebook experience about "time well spent."
Twitter and Facebook are feeling public pressure to clean up their
acts. Twitter has now reached a point where the company is asking
for public and academic help. It's something Jen Golbeck, a
professor at the University of Maryland's College of Information
Studies, said she's glad to hear.
of the really promising things is they want to work with academics
on this, and they have this request for proposals from researchers,"
Golbeck said. In the past, she said, Twitter "made it incredibly
difficult for researchers to work with their data. It's super
limited and they restrict our ability to share data."
said he first heard of the concept of measuring "conversational
health" from media analytics companies Cortico and Social Machines.
The indicators they use are shared attention, shared reality,
variety of opinion and receptivity.
don't yet know if those are the right indicators of conversation
health for Twitter. And we don’t yet know how best to measure them,
or the best ways to help people increase individual, community and,
ultimately, global public health," Dorsey wrote.
Golbeck said Dorsey's openness to working with the public is a
"great signal," she said Twitter still can't ignore the work it
needs to do in "taking down the bad stuff."
have done a really terrible job at it," she said. "Their internal
policies have been clearly confused, where violent stuff has stayed
up and stuff that shouldn't have been taken down has. I don't think
you can ignore that and just look at what makes a healthy
have long been a problem on Twitter. It's something former CEO Dick
Costolo has said he regrets not tackling when Twitter was a younger
growing aggression isn't just about content. The company has also
taken aim at particular users who perpetuate abuse.
Yiannopoulos, a former editor for the right-wing website Breitbart,
was permanently banned from Twitter for harassing comedian Leslie
Jones. After Robin Williams' death, his daughter, Zelda, took a
break from Twitter after she was targeted by trolls. Those are just
two of countless examples of abuse perpetrated on the site.
an interview last year, Costolo
sad he takes responsibility for not "taking
the bull by the horns."
wish I could turn back the clock and go back to 2010 and stop abuse
on the platform by creating a very specific bar for how the DNC
wants you to behave on the platform," he said.