Twitter said that political ideology did not shape its policies, days after accusations of bias against right wing users in India. Right-wingers have accused Twitter of limiting the reach of their accounts, banning or suspending accounts which support the Indian government, manipulating the Trending section, among other things.
“We do not review, prioritize, or enforce our policies on the basis of political ideology. Every Tweet and every account is treated impartially,” wrote Twitter’s VP of global public policy Colin Crowell in a blog post on Friday. “Whether it’s trends, how we enforce our policies, or the content that appears in your timeline, we believe in impartiality and do not take any actions based upon political viewpoints,” he said.
Twitter denied any ideology-based bias against conservative voices on Twitter, stating that “public conversation around Twitter’s policies and actions may be distorted by some who have a political agenda” and “this may be particularly acute during election cycles when highly-charged political rhetoric becomes more common.”
Twitter and impartiality: an explanation
- Reporting: “Abuse and hateful conduct comes from accounts across the ideological spectrum and we will continue to take action when our rules are broken,” wrote Crowell, explaining that mistakes or false positives are human errors, and not “political statements of intent.”
- Trending: Crowell also said that Twitter is regularly accused of bias regarding the Trending section, but the topics are driven by algorithms based on both volume and speed of the tweets. Only posts related to profanity, adult/graphic references and total number of tweets, are prevented from trending – “this is decided by trained experts and never on the basis of political ideology.”
- Timeline: “Twitter does not use political ideology to rank content”, users choose who they want to follow. Twitter also offers a reverse-chronological timeline to see tweets according to time.
- Followers: Crowell said Twitter’s July 2018 initiative to purge inactive accounts was a “global initiative and did not target any particular geography, political ideology or Twitter account.”
Absence from the parliamentary panel
Last week, the company was scheduled to attend a 31-member parliamentary committee on IT after accusations against it cropped up.
However, soon after Crowell’s blog post, Twitter issued a statement, “Given such a short notice of the hearing, we informed the Committee that it would not be possible for senior officials from the United States to appear on Monday.” “Our CEO, Jack Dorsey, and other senior Twitter executives visited India in recent weeks because it is an important market for Twitter and we value growing interest in Twitter in India.”
Twitter said that it could send representatives from Twitter India to appear before the panel “or to work with the Lok Sabha Secretariat to find more suitable dates so that a senior Twitter official can attend.” An Indian Express report cited a source from the parliamentary panel as saying that Twitter didn’t appear “keen to participate in our proceedings” and that Twitter India officials “do not have enforcement authority.”
BJP MP Anurag Thakur, the chairman of the committee, reacted to Twitter declining the presence of its senior officials:
The Parliamentary Commitee on Information Technology takes very serious note of this.
We will take appropriate action on 11th February.
Citizens are welcome to send their concerns/issues via email to the Parliamentary Commitee.
— Anurag Thakur (@ianuragthakur) February 9, 2019
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