Technology

Twitter’s algorithm would be right-wing

According to a new Twitter study, the platform’s algorithm tends to favor news content and tweets flagged to the right.

The goal of the study, initially, was to determine if the platform’s algorithm amplified political content, explain Rumman Chowdhury, director of software engineering at Twitter, and Luca Belli, a researcher in machine learning.

The two men specify in a blog post that Twitter wanted to “better understand the amplification of political content from elected officials on the news channel showing algorithmic recommendations, compared to the reverse chronological news channel.”

Elected officials and right-wing media hailed by algorithm

The researchers followed millions of tweets from elected officials in seven countries (Germany, Canada, France, Japan, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States) between April 1 and August 15, 2020. Their analysis focused in particular on the variants within the same party. But mainly they wanted to know if certain political groups were recommended more than others, and if the algorithm favored certain media.

“In six of these seven countries, with the exception of Germany, the tweets posted by the accounts marked on the right were more recommended by the algorithm than those on the left, in a group study context. Likewise, the media marked on the right were more disseminated by the algorithm than those marked on the left ”, point out Rumman Chowdhury and Luca Belli.

“The tweets of elected officials, regardless of their party, and regardless of whether their party is in power or not, were more recommended by the algorithm than other political content in the reverse chronological news source.” »

In the United States, tweets from Republican elected officials are favored

In the United States, tweets from elected Republican officials were recommended more than those from Democrats. The same trend was seen in almost every other country, particularly the UK, where tweets by conservative politicians were significantly recommended over any other party.

The study also notes that not only is content on the right more popular, but news sites flagged on the left experience relatively low amplification compared to all other categories.

In the United States, Fox News and the New York Post, two outlets known for being conservative, are recommended more than all the others.

Objective: reduce observed inequalities

For researchers, it is difficult to understand the phenomenon. In fact, they explain that the algorithm’s actions are a “product of the interactions between users and the platform.”

Twitter’s Machine Learning Ethics, Transparency and Accountability (META) team will now look into the matter, so they can “mitigate any inequalities that may arise.”

“This study highlights the complex interaction between an algorithmic system and the people who use the platform. Algorithmic amplification is not problematic by default: all algorithms amplify ”, specify the two researchers. “Algorithmic amplification is problematic if there is preferential treatment depending on how the algorithm is built in relation to the interactions that people have with it. “

“Further root cause analysis is needed to determine what changes, if any, are necessary to reduce the negative impacts of our algorithm on the recommendation feed. “

A conservative trend that adds to racist prejudice

The study was conducted by Twitter as part of a more comprehensive investigation into how its algorithm works, which has raised a number of concerns in recent years.

Last year, Twitter was at the center of the scandal when it was discovered that its automatic cropping tool tended to remove black faces in favor of white faces. In May, after conducting an investigation, the company admitted this racist bias in its algorithm. According to his research, he also favored men over women. On the social network, many users rebelled, posting photos of themselves or famous people, such as the former president of the United States Barack Obama.

Source: .com

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