Twitter recently announced that it will enlist academic research groups to help in its project on conversation health. The researchers will study the behavior of Twitter users to find ways to assess how healthy the discussions are and help rid the platform of racists and trolls.
The social networking site continues to take steps to tamp down offensive tweets after facing much criticism for not doing enough to curb cyberbullying and online harassment on its platform. The study on conversation health is part of Twitter head Jack Dorsey’s plan to stop users’ bad behavior and to develop metrics that can be used to check the “health” of discussions on Twitter.
The company revealed on Monday that it has chosen two groups of researchers to spearhead their project. The selection process commenced in March, with Twitter receiving over 230 proposals on metrics that could be utilized to evaluate and improve the social networking platform.
The first group of academic researchers hail from universities in Italy, the Netherlands, and the US and will be headed by Dr. Rebekah Tromble, an expert on politics in social media at Leiden University in the Netherlands. Her team will focus on the issues of impolite discourse and “echo chambers,” a practice where people only look for and listen to information that suits their beliefs.
They’ll look into ways to assess how much users interact with the various point of views shared on the platform. They’re also tasked to design algorithms that will differentiate between “incivility” or rude conversations and “intolerant discourse,” which includes racist terms and language.
Meanwhile, the second group of academics from the University of Amsterdam and Oxford University will research how exposing users to people who come from different backgrounds and hold other perspectives can lessen discrimination and prejudice. The theory is that if people are exposed to a wider range of viewpoints, there will be fewer insults or threatening comments posted.
Twitter has shown that it’s very serious about improving the conversations held on its platform. It has even deleted millions of fake accounts in a bout of house cleaning. The company’s health conversation project could potentially make a difference, although its long-term effects still have to be determined.