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Twitter partners with academics to improve health of public conversations


Twitter is partnering with two groups of academic researchers to figure out how to measure the health of conversations happening on the platform. In its Q2 2018 earnings announced last week, Twitter made a record profit of $100 million, but lost a million users in the US. The buzz around Twitter’s ‘health’ flows directly from CEO Jack Dorsey comments on how the company was focused on long-term health over near-term metrics.

Since March, Twitter has been reviewing proposals for from academics as to how to approach the analytics of conversation and quality of interaction on the platform. Twitter says teams from different departments within Twitter such as data science, product, machine learning, safety, and so on. Twitter has now selected two teams to begin working on how to improve public conversation on the platform.

The first team led by scholars from Leiden University in the Netherlands, will focus on the diversity of opinion on the platform and the affect of echo chambers. Echo chambers are formed when discussions involve only like-minded people and perspectives, and any opposition view is likely to increase resentment and even rejection.

The second set of metrics will focus on ‘incivility and intolerance’ on Twitter. Academics from University of Oxford and University of Amsterdam will head the second group — which will develop algorithms to differentiate between when ‘uncivil’ discourse serves as a function in forwarding dialogue and when it is intolerant such as hate speech, xenophobia, racism, and so on.

Remember that these teams are going to track and understand how echo chambers are created, their associated patterns, and how intolerant behaviour is shaped. The larger question here could be what exactly is Twitter going to do improve health with the metrics and patterns these academics will collect. Also Twitter has not announced any date for when the research must come into fruition.

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