Twitter’s Algorithm Drives ‘Political Right’ Content, But Why Not Known

In April, Twitter said it was investing in a new effort to study the algorithm on its platform and whether it contributes to “unintentional damage.” The company promised to study the political trends of its content recommendations and now, it haspubliced their initial findings.

According to Twitter’s research team, the company’s timeline algorithm amplifies “political right” content in six of the seven countries studied.

The research looked at two questions: whether the algorithmic timeline amplified the political content of elected officials and whether some political groups received a greater amount of amplification. The team used tweets from news outlets and elected officials in seven countries – Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Spain, the UK and the US – to conduct the analysis, which they said was a first for Twitter.

“Tweets about political content from elected officials, regardless of party or whether the party is in power, see an algorithmic amplification when compared to political content in the reverse chronological timeline,” explained Rumman Chowdhury of the poll.

“In 6 out of 7 countries, tweets posted by elected officials on the political right are amplified more by algorithms than by the political left. Right-leaning media (defined by third parties) see greater amplification compared to left-leaning,” he said.

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As much as there is the protocol, it is still not clear why this is happening. In the reviews,the researchers said the difference in amplification could be the result of political parties pursuing “different strategies on Twitter.” But the team said more research would be needed to fully understand the cause.

Furthermore, Chowdhury noted that “algorithmic amplification is not problematic by default.” The researchers further point out that their findings “do not support the hypothesis that algorithmic personalization amplifies extreme ideologies more than traditional political voices.”

 

All of this ends up further debunking the view that Twitter is biased from a political side. The research also provides insight into how a technology platform can study the unintended effects of your data.

Twitter’s survey is part of a broader effort to uncover biases and other issues in its algorithms.  Furthermore, the company published the indices and looked for a way to reward people who found the problems of prejudice on its platform.

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