There has been a lot of discussion about Twitter and political bias in India in recent weeks and the global real-time communication platform today set the record straight.
Yesterday Twitter was summoned before Indian Parliament panel. According to the subpoena issued, they have to present their views on “safeguarding citizens rights on social/online news media platforms” on 11th February 2019.
In reply to above, today Twitter released it’s policies claiming that it is committed to remaining unbiased with the public interest in mind. In 2017, Twitter had asked its most passionate customers what they love most about Twitter, and what they shared was very powerful. They said that Twitter lets them see what’s happening from every point of view, all perspectives, every side. This ability to see every side of a topic makes Twitter unlike any other platform or service in the world – and it’s something the company actively works to cultivate and protect.
Twitter claims that it is a platform where voices from across the spectrum can be seen and heard. It is committed to the principles of openness, transparency, and impartiality.
Whether it’s trends, the content that appears in users’ timelines, or how the company enforces its policies, Twitter believes in impartiality and does not take any actions based upon political views or viewpoints. Twitter’s product and policies are never developed nor evolved on the basis of political ideology.
Reporting and enforcement
Twitter has made more than 70 product, policy, and operational changes since the beginning of 2018, all with the aim of making people feel safe expressing themselves on the service. Abuse and hateful conduct come from accounts across the ideological spectrum and Twitter will continue to take action when its rules are broken.
Colin Crowell, Global VP – Public Policy, Twitter said, “Twitter does not review, prioritize, or enforce its policies on the basis of political ideology. Every Tweet and every account is treated impartially. We apply our policies fairly and judiciously for all. If there are “false positive” decisions, these are not political statements of intent; they are the basic human error rate of running the fastest, most open conversational tool in history.”
Twitter has a specialized, global team that enforces the Twitter Rules with impartiality. Twitter India employees do not make enforcement decisions. This is by design to ensure fairness and objectivity.
The company’s policies have evolved to protect its account holders and to make as clear as possible what behaviors are prohibited. Twitter has one set of Rules which outline the behaviors allowed on the platform and decisions can be appealed by account holders at any time. The full process is detailed here.
Trending topics is an area where Twitter sees regular speculation and charges leveled against the company, often with no factual basis. Trends are topics that are popular right now, rather than topics that have been popular for a while or on a daily basis.
Trends are not calculated by the total number of Tweets on a topic alone — the total number of Tweets is just one factor when ranking and determining trends. A very important factor in determining trends is the number of Tweets in a given time period (i.e. velocity), which is not necessarily related to the total number of Tweets (i.e. volume). When topics fall off the trending topic list, it’s because the volume and velocity have dissipated. Trending topics – at their core – are driven by impartial, purpose-built algorithms. Claims to the contrary are wrong.
There are only very rare instances where Twitter will prevent certain content from trending. This is outlined in the Twitter Rules and occurs most often when trends contain profanity or adult/graphic references, incite hate on the basis of a protected characteristic, or violate the Twitter Rules. These decisions are made by trained experts and never on the basis of political ideology. More detailed information can be found here.
As Twitter’s CEO and others have stated publicly, Twitter does not use political ideology to rank content on its service. When setting up a Twitter account, people decide which accounts they want to follow — they are in control of the views they see and the content they are interested in.
Twitter account holders are also empowered to simply switch to a clear, reverse-chronological timeline that shows Tweets in order of the time sent.
Twitter’s public verification process is currently closed. 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. To be clear, the parties themselves select the accounts for verification and then Twitter reviews these accounts to ensure they meet the company’s verification standards. Twitter verifies these accounts to empower healthy election conversations and to provide confidence that these public figures are whom they claim to be.
Remarking on maintaining the platform’s integrity as the nation approaches the upcoming election, Colin Crowell, Global VP – Public Policy, Twitter, said “India is the world’s largest democracy, and one of our fastest-growing audience markets globally. Twitter’s real-time and open nature facilitates robust civic engagement on topics of national and local interest during elections. We are committed to surfacing all sides of the conversation as we enter the election season in this extraordinarily diverse cultural, political and social climate. We have never been more passionate about our mission to serve our Indian customers and to protect and enhance the national conversation. For our part, we will endeavor to be even more transparent in how we develop and enforce our policies to dispel conspiracy theories and mistrust.”