Improving the collective health of the public conversation is the number one priority for Twitter as a company, and protecting the integrity of elections is an essential part of the company’s mission.
India is the world’s largest democracy, and one of Twitter’s largest and fastest-growing audience markets in the world so the 2019 Lok Sabha is a key priority for the company, globally.
As announced late last year, Twitter has made a number of changes to the product, policies, and approach to enforcement to address the behaviors which distort and detract from the public conversation – particularly those which can surface at critical moments such as elections.
Evolving the product: The company continues to make improvements to the Twitter product to help people stay informed and to see the best content first. For example, the timeline personalization setting was recently updated to allow people to select a strictly reverse-chronological experience. This provides account holders with more control over how they experience what’s happening on Twitter.
Updating the Twitter Rules: The Twitter Rules were updated to provide clearer guidance on several key issues including fake accounts, attributed activity and distribution of hacked materials. In the area of fake accounts, the rules were expanded to better reflect how Twitter identifies fake accounts, and what types of inauthentic activities are violative.
In the area of attributed activity, the company expanded its enforcement approach to include accounts that deliberately mimic or are intended to replace accounts previously suspended for violating the Twitter Rules.
In the area of hacked materials, Twitter expanded the criteria for when it will take action on accounts which claim responsibility for a hack. This includes threats and public incentives to hack specific people and accounts.
Addressing manipulation on the service: Twitter continues to invest intensively to identify and combat bad-faith actors who try to manipulate the service. Twitter fights platform manipulation (including spam and malicious automation) strategically and at scale. The company has developed machine learning tools that identify and take action on networks of spammy or automated accounts automatically. This lets Twitter tackle attempts to manipulate conversations at scale, across languages and time zones, without relying on reactive reports. Twitter introduced a new registration process for developers requesting access to the APIs to prevent the registration of spammy and low-quality apps, and their teams are continuing to roll out improvements to the proactive enforcement against common policy violations. This includes building new proprietary systems to identify and remove ban evaders at speed and scale. Twitter continues to make strong progress and the company is now removing 214 percent more accounts year-over-year for violating platform manipulation policies.
Scaling our internal team: Similar to the model put in place for other recent elections around the world such as the U.S., Brazil, and Mexico, Twitter has formed an internal, cross-functional elections group to lead electoral integrity work in India from now through polling day. Using proprietary-built internal tools, the team proactively protects trends, supports partner escalations, and identifies potential threats from malicious actors.
Improving language support and cultural context: As mentioned in previous posts, decisions around the enforcement of the Twitter Rules are made by a specially trained global team. This global team undergoes in-depth training into Twitter’s policies, but the company also has an intensive focus on local language, culture, and context, ensuring social and political nuances are being taken into account. For example, there are native language speakers in major Indic languages used on Twitter.
Working with political parties and election officials in India
The team is continuing transparent and consistent communication with political parties from across the spectrum, as well as the Election Commission of India, so that they know how to report suspicious, abusive, and rule-violating activity to Twitter.
Twitter launched a dedicated, elections-specific support portal for election partners to provide feedback directly about issues and concerns that could arise during the 2019 Indian election. This process is designed to ensure the company receives and reviews critical feedback about emerging issues as quickly as possible.
During elections, Twitter teams work closely with political parties across the spectrum to train them on using Twitter to best engage with their constituents. Twitter teams continue to hold training and workshops with both regional and national parties (BJP, INC, CPI, CPI-M), and their respective state units. In last year, eight regional parties were onboarded to Twitter including DMK, AIADMK, Samajwadi Party, ShivSena, Nationalist Congress Party, Rashtriya Janata Dal, Telangana Rashtra Samiti, and Makkal Needhi Maiam. At the request of the various political parties, 15 training sessions were held on #ElectionsOnTwitter with different political parties, reaching hundreds of candidates, elected officials, and relevant party officials.
The public verification process is currently closed however with the upcoming elections, Twitter is working with Indian political parties to verify candidates, elected officials, and relevant party officials whose accounts will be active in the public conversation. More information can be found here.
Serving the public conversation in India
Over the last year, Twitter has led and supported a range of local initiatives in India to help serve the public conversation and contribute to healthy democratic discourse. These include:
- #ElectionsOnTwitter which was was held in partnership with civil society organizations Ashoka India and Bangalore Political Action Committee, as well as media partners The News Minute, CNN News 18 and News 18 Kannada around the #KarnatakaElections2018.
- Partnering with Youth Ki Awaaz, CUTS International, Pravah, Commutiny The Youth Collective, Praveen Lata Sansthan, The Optimist Citizen, Jagran Lakecity University, SPACE, and Association for Democratic Reforms on a series of #DemocracyAdda Youth Summits in cities across India.
- Partnering with YLAC (Young Leaders for Active Citizenship) for a #FutureOfTelangana event in Hyderabad. The event brought together the youth of Telangana with political parties to discuss various issues impacting the state. Rubaroo and Youngistan were on-ground partners for the event.
- Working with senior leaders and candidates from across the political spectrum on a Twitter Q&A #AskTheLeader series, giving them the opportunity to engage directly with constituents and answer questions on key issues. Rajasthan Congress President Sachin Pilot, Telangana IT Minister KTR, Jyotiraditya Scindia from Congress, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav, and Union Minister of State and Senior BJP Leader Jayant Sinha have been amongst the leaders to host a Twitter Q&A so far.
- The launch of a youth civic engagement campaign #PowerOf18, aimed at encouraging the youth of India to contribute to public debate and participate in civic engagement in the upcoming election season. We’re working with content partners and young personalities to drive greater awareness and understanding among the youth voters through research, events and online content collaboration.
- Hosting a delegation from the Election Commission of India for a voter awareness forum.
The public conversation on Twitter is never more important than during elections, the cornerstone of any democracy. Twitter shows the world what is happening, democratizes access to information and—at its best—provides insights into a diversity of perspectives on critical issues in real-time.
Colin Crowell, Global VP – Public Policy, Twitter said, “We deeply respect the integrity of the election process and are committed to providing a service that fosters and facilitates free and open democratic debate. This is a constant process of learning and we gain insights from every election around the world, which helps inform our approach to this evolving challenge. The 2019 Lok Sabha is a priority for the company and our dedicated cross functional team is working to ensure that the health of the public conversation is enhanced and protected at this important time.”