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Twitter announces new projects to measure health of social conversation

The social media site will work with experts from the University of Oxford on trying to measure conversation quality on the platform.

Twitter is to work with experts from the University of Oxford as part of attempts to measure and improve the health of conversation on the platform.

Social psychology Professor Miles Hewstone and John Gallacher from the university, along with Dr Marc Heerdink from the University of Amsterdam will study how people use Twitter and what impact that has on the quality of debate, the firm said.

The social network announced earlier this year it would review proposals from outside experts into how to measure and improve the health of conversation on the site, after several years of criticism over misinformation and offensive content spreading on the site.

Twitter said it would also work with another team of researchers, led by Dr Rebekah Tromble from Leiden University in the Netherlands, who would look into echo chambers and uncivil discourse.

“We’re very excited about the opportunity to work with Twitter on investigating the important social challenges of a digitally connected world,” Prof Hewstone said.

“Evidence from social psychology has shown how communication between people from different backgrounds is one of the best ways to decrease prejudice and discrimination.

“We’re aiming to investigate how this understanding can be used to measure the health of conversations on Twitter, and whether the effects of positive online interaction carry across to the offline world.”

Twitter has already taken some steps to “increase the collective health” of the platform, including removing locked, inactive accounts and changing how tweets and replies appear on the site.

However, President Donald Trump has also accused the social network of “shadow banning” conservative figures from the site by hiding their posts and profiles from search results, something Twitter denied, adding that it would investigate some users not appearing automatically in search results.

Writing in a blog post on its new partnerships on conversation health, the site said it had to improve the health of its content.

“Ensuring we have thoughtful, comprehensive metrics to measure the health of public conversation on Twitter is crucial to guiding our work and making progress, and both of our partners will help us continue to think critically and inclusively so we can get this right,” the firm said.

“We know this is a very ambitious task, and look forward to working with these two teams, challenging ourselves to better support a thriving, healthy public conversation.”

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