Twitter not using algorithms to ban white supremacist content to prevent flagging Republicans

Banning politicians would not really be a great idea as a trade-off for flagging all white supremacist content.


Twitter is always in the news when it comes to talking about misusing a platform. It is a platform where harassment of women, online bullying and much more is quite rife, something that even its CEO Jack Dorsey has acknowledged on many occasions.

Twitter was used by the Islamic State (ISIS) for its propaganda. But over the years Twitter has managed to put into place strict algorithms that have effectively cracked that problem. Yet, when it comes to neo-Nazi and white supremacist content, Twitter is still a platform of choice for many.

Twitter not using algorithms to ban white supremacist content to prevent flagging Republicans

Representational image. Reuters

At an all-hands meeting, one Twitter employee asked why Twitter is unable to control the problem of white-supremacist tweets when it so successfully used algorithms to identify and almost entirely eliminate ISIS-related content. To this question, another employee working in the artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning department of Twitter answered that applying a wide-ranging algorithm to tackle white supremacist content would end up even flagging accounts of a lot of conservative users and Republican politicians, which could cause a backlash.

A report in Motherboard, the Twitter employee said that the platform could not have an all-purpose algorithm to contain white supremacist content, as it would also require understanding nuances and most likely human intervention.

According to the employee, on a technical level, algorithms aggressively removing white supremacist content can wipe off content from Republican politicians. Banning politicians would not really be a great idea as a trade-off for flagging all white supremacist content. As it is Twitter has been alleged by a lot of conservative users of being biased. None other than US President Donald Trump, who has a massive Twitter following, has called out Twitter and other social media giants of having a Democrat bias.

So Twitter continues to use human moderators, along with technology, to take a call on neo-Nazi or white supremacist content. Such kind of content, according to Twitter, also requires understanding the context and nuance, something that algorithms are not quite adept at.

(Also Read: Facebook's banning of white nationalism could be a slippery slope towards indiscriminate censorship)

Twitter has clarified that the employee's justification, isn't an accurate representation of its policies or enforcement. So it's difficult to know if this is Twitter's official stand on the matter.

In the past, Twitter has faced a lot of backlash from Republican supporters of being biased against conservative thought and opinions. Its CEO even met Trump on 23 April, after the US President had sent out a series of tweets saying things to the effect that he wasn't treated well by Twitter for being a Republican.

In the past, Trump lost 204,000, or 0.4 percent, of his 53.4 million followers in July 2018, when Twitter started its purge of suspicious accounts, according to social media data firm Keyhole.

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