Twitter algorithm changes will hide more bad tweets and trolls

Gladys Abbott
May 16, 2018

The result is that people contributing to the healthy conversation will be more visible while those that try to poison or undermine the debate with negativity will be digitally sidelined. According to the company, this method will help it to identify and demote disruptive content that appears in conversations and search results. In doing so, Twitter thinks it can proactively police its site without waiting for people to run into and report abuse. Examples cited include whether or not a person has confirmed their e-mail address, if someone signs up for multiple accounts at the same time, behavior that could indicate a coordinated attack or accounts that repeatedly tweet or mention accounts that don't follow them.

The company now uses a mixture of machine learning, human review processes and policies to determine how tweets are organised in conversations and search.

Harvey and Gasca said that there are many new signals that Twitter is taking in, most of which are not visible externally. The company also found that less than 1% of Twitter accounts made up the majority of abuse reports and that numerous reported tweets did not actually violate the company's rules, despite "detract [ing] from the overall experience" for most users. Twitter said the update has paid off so far, with abuse reports down 8 percent in the markets where it's been tested. Moving forward, however, Twitter will also be injecting new behavioral signals into how public tweets are presented.

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Additionally, following Facebook's lead, Twitter recently began encouraging a public conversation about its impact on the health of individuals and society at large. This is, however, a very 2014 way to look at content moderation and I think it's grown pretty apparent as of late that Twitter needs to lean on its algorithmic intelligence to solve this rather than putting the burden entirely on users hitting the report button.

Still, Twitter's discourse is often colored by such tweets, and banning the people involved seems like a good way to open the platform to cries of censorship (well, more open than it is already). Twitter also admitted that this is just one of several approaches meant to improve people's experiences on the platform, and that there will be "mistakes", "false positives", and "things we miss".

The company says it will deploy a screen saying "show more replies" in front of responses that its systems adjudicate as vexatious, cynical or calculated to offend. "We are making progress as we go", Dorsey said.

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