November 2016

Twitter Takes a Stand Against Online Abuse

twitterIt is no secret that Twitter is a platform that has been experiencing a lot of problems with online abuse. A lot of recent data has come out showing just how badly this problem has started to effect Twitter users. In many cases, this causes Twitter users to leave the platform entirely.  In response to these problems, Twitter has started to roll out an anti-harassment update that will hopefully be the first step to getting control of this situation.

 

Twitter’s new update influences a few specific pieces of Twitter. Centered on the fact that many users said that abuse coming to them through notifications was the most disheartening, Twitter has updated its “mute” feature. While this feature previously made it so that specific accounts could be muted to specific users, it has now been extended so that users can select keywords and phrases that they don’t want to see in their notifications. This does not remove these items from the news feed yet, but does limit personal attacks. It also provides a way for users to drop out of ongoing conversations where they have been tagged.

 

Another update has been made directly to the way that tweets can be reported as abusive. Twitter is working to make this process much simpler by allowing users to choose from a few options to further elaborate on why a post is abusive. They have also trained their support teams to help them deal with harassment reports in a quicker and more sensitive way. The goal is to make the process of reporting tweets faster and more friendly.

 

Twitter’s new update is just one step toward getting control of abuse that happens over this platform. This social media site faces a common problem that comes from allowing open discourse and free speech while trying to avoid creating a hostile environment for everyone. The goal of this update is to help to make Twitter a much more welcoming platform. While they don’t expect major changes to come as a result of this first update, they are hoping that it will be the first step to much bigger changes.

Using Social Media to Predict Elections May Be a New Trend

social mediaAfter the surprising results of the election on Tuesday, many people were blindsided as the results were quite different from those predicted by traditional polls before the election. With this stunning turn of events, many have started to question the validity of traditional polls, turning instead to different ways of predicting upcoming results in elections. Some are suggesting that social media could be the best way to predict elections in the future.

 

Prior to the election, several articles came out suggesting that Trump would actually make a stunning win in the election. These articles used evidence gathered from different sources all connected to social media. In one case, a professor said that an algorithm he created predicted a win by Donald Trump. This algorithm utilized data available from Twitter that showed what people were talking about prior to the election. He had used this algorithm before with 95% accuracy to predict the 2013 Australian federal election and the 2015 Queensland election.

 

In another example, an artificial intelligence system predicted that Trump would win the election as well. This particular AI system takes a wide number of data points from Google, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to create predictions on who will win. Earlier in the election process, the system was able to predict correctly the results of the presidential primaries. Since 2004 when this AI system was created, the system was able to predict the last three U.S. presidential elections. Now has correctly predicted this one as well.

 

There has been a great deal of success with just using social media alone as a predictor of who will win the election. While polls failed miserably at predicting the results of the election, other systems were able to predict the results by comparing the number of pro-Trump and pro-Clinton tweets in the months leading up to the election. There are some small failings in this kind of a predictor since computers are not always best at judging whether a tweet is for or against a specific candidate. Still there was much more success in predicting Tuesday’s election this way than through polling.

 

Analysts monitoring social media were able to predict the outcome of the election months in advance, while polls were still predicting an easy win for Hillary Clinton. Their data suggested that those who were responding to the polls may not be answering truthfully when confronted by a stranger on the phone. While these people may not have claimed to be voting for Trump or may have refused to answer polls, on social media they were able to speak their mind. This evidence suggests that in the future, social media may actually be the place to start when attempting to predict elections.

Looking to the Effects of Social Media in the Wake of Election Results

american flagAfter an unexpected win by Donald Trump in this year’s election, many people are starting to look into the way that social media played a role. Trump was a candidate with an undeniably large social media presence from the beginning. He received the most attention for his interactions on Twitter, but he was also present on other social media sites during his campaign. Reports from those tracking the campaign show that many supporters were able to find each other through social media and to follow campaigns through Facebook, Twitter, and even Snapchat.

 

Information after election day now shows us how social media has changed the way that people follow the election results and how they enter the discussion on candidates through social media. One of the key sites for election day interactions was Twitter. Between the start of election day and 3am the next day when Trump claimed his victory Twitter saw more than 75 million tweets that were related to the election. This is up from 2012, when there were only around 31 million tweets that were related to that election. It is clear from these statistics alone that more people are turning to social media when it comes to coverage of important events.

 

In a study that was conducted on how social media actually changes people’s opinions on a political subject, it was clear that social media can do more than just get people interacting with one another. The study discovered that 20% of social media users said they had changed an opinion about a social or political issue because of something they saw on social media.  Additionally, 17% reported that social media had changed their view on a political candidate. In the majority of cases, the view had changed for the worse rather than for the better.

 

Many people worry about the way that social media can effect discourse on different political subjects just because of the format of social media itself. Some argue that there is no room for educated and civil discourse when social media users are communicating in memes and in 140 character bursts. The interactions between people on either side of the political spectrum within social media, appear in general to be negative interactions that degrade quickly to name calling. There is also concern that social media gets people to focus more on scandals rather than on the policies of the candidates.

 

One thing is certain, social media appears to make political opinions and interactions much more present in people’s everyday life, making it harder for people to avoid looking at the different sides of the argument. Candidates and average citizens alike have the ability to interact in completely new ways throughout this discussion. Whether this is beneficial or problematic for political discourse in our country remains to be seen.

Twitter Begins to Tests Safari Reader Mode As a Default for Links

twitterTwitter is testing the use of Safari reader mode as their default for links within their site. Essentially what they have done is made it so that links from Twitter on some iOS phones default to open these links with the Safari reader mode this is already on the phone. This mode removes links, ads, and comments from these pages to simplify the page for reading. Twitter is still just in a testing stage with this and does not yet plan to release this to all iOS phones.

 

One of Twitter’s main claims about why they are working on testing this specific kind of a feature is that they would like to make opening links simpler for their users. Unfortunately, there are some flaws with the Safari reader mode itself. In many cases, when reader mode removes the visual formatting of a website it leaves behind text that is broken up oddly and awkwardly spaced. As Twitter is working to connect users to news sites, the mode may not be an ideal solution.

 

Reader mode isn’t something that comes from Twitter itself. This is something that Apple users could have enabled on their phone for many years now. It is a part of the Safari browser that is integral to the iPhone system. What Twitter is currently testing, is a way to enable this mode automatically when a link is clicked on within their social media site.

 

There has been some backlash about this testing from some of the news sites. These sites worry about loss of ad revenue because this mode eliminates the different ads from the page. Website owners are also concerned because they cannot customize specifically what people will see in this mode. Twitter users are also frustrated to hear of this testing because Twitter seems to once again be focusing on something that isn’t a main concern of their users. Twitter users still want to see an edit button for tweets and more control on abuse and trolling. The disconnect between what users want and what Twitter is up to is starting to become a big concern for Twitter users.