Twitter may be approaching a meaning or do we call it an identity crisis? Recently, the social media site has come under attack for what many call an ‘enabling of hate speech’ in a climate where social media’s rep for abetting negative attitude has been in the spotlight.
At the heart of such hot exchanges typical on Twitter, it has been discovered are bots, injecting poison into every conversation.
Many experts are calling out the platform for failing to police its platform properly.
The trend of bots charging up the tweetosphere with riling tweets and retweets of news stories are being investigated now. Twitter performed a purge of the platform a few moments ago but a lot still has to be done.
A group of students at the University of California in Berkeley studied the role of bots on the platform. They have created a tool called factcheck.me that allows anyone to track bot activity and understand how viral photos and links take off.
Kyle Rentschler, one of the team behind the project, told Tech Tent that as many as 60% of the tweets about a migrant caravan making its way through Mexico towards the United States were generated by bots.
How can he be sure that these were not human tweets?
‘Many of these accounts tweet at inhuman levels, like a tweet every minute or so, for days or weeks at a time,’ he says.
But the tweets are not all coming from one side of the argument. Some are fear-mongering about the caravan, others are dismissing the whole affair as a mythical problem.
While Twitter did start rooting out the bots in the summer, Kyle says there is still a long way to go: ‘It’s still a huge issue and nowhere near to being solved.’
Twitter have also come under fire over its handling of complaints about fake news designed to stir up hatred.
Early last week, a number of Twitter accounts shared a photo of what they claimed was billionaire George Soros in a Nazi uniform back in World War Two.
It was an obvious lie. The Twitter account of the Auschwitz Museum responded by pointing out that the picture was of Oskar Groening, a member of the SS. George Soros was only 14 at the end of the war.
After the deadly attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue, and with Soros among those targeted with bombs through the post, this was both an anti-Semitic smear and fake news.
But try to report a Tweet as a lie and you run up against a problem. Fake news is not a category that Twitter lists as a cause for action. And while many people have been reporting the fake photo as ‘abusive or harmful’ it is still going viral on Twitter.
The company provided a lengthy statement, which did not answer any detailed questions about the Soros smear. It did say Twitter was moving with a ‘sense of urgency and commitment’ to improve the health of the public conversation.
It continued: ‘We’re not always going to get it right but we firmly believe that we need to be thoughtful and considered in our approach, balancing freedom of expression with people’s absolute need to feel safe online. While we welcome everyone to express themselves on our service, we will not tolerate behaviour that harasses, threatens, or uses fear to silence the voices of others.’