In a move to combat online toxicity, Twitter will start displaying its rules of conduct far more visibly.
Today Twitter will begin testing such an idea: that showing an internet platform’s rules to users will improve behavior on that platform. Social norms, which are people’s beliefs about what institutions and other people consider acceptable behavior, powerfully influence what people do and don’t do. Research has shown that when institutions publish rules clearly, people are more likely to follow them.
Launching a new study today with @SusanBenesch and @dangerousspeech to help diminish abuse on Twitter. It’s a simple idea, and we have an open and accountable way to share the findings. https://t.co/aH2KCWJiRd
— jack (@jack) April 6, 2018
As an open collaboration following a set of ethical, legal and scientific constraints, users are assured that their data will remain safe. Using only anonymised data, the study aims to “supply practical knowledge about preventing abuse online”. The researchers elaborated on this as follows:
To be as transparent as possible, we are publicly announcing the study before it starts. Since we cannot describe it in detail now without jeopardizing the integrity of the results, we found two alternatives. First, the full study design was approved by two university ethics committees (whose task is to make sure researchers conform to rules that protect people who may be affected by research). Second, we have filed our analysis plan — a detailed description of how the study will be carried out — with a neutral third party called the Open Science Framework. This ensures that we, and Twitter, can be held accountable for exactly what we are doing.
To protect privacy, the company will only give us anonymized, aggregated information. Since we will not receive identifying information on any individual person or Twitter account, we cannot and will not mention anyone or their Tweets in our publications.
What we will make available to anyone are our findings, so that they can be freely used. We will submit our research for academic peer review and publish it in an academic journal.
Given the tendency of twitter users to hurl abuse at others due to a difference of opinion, or for various other reasons, the study is quite a welcome sight. Hopefully it will lead to better online interactions and less hate speech and toxicity in the foreseeable future.
Twitter’s rules can be viewed here