Rebekah Tromble, an assistant professor of political science at Leiden University in the Netherlands, will lead a group that will look into “echo chambers and uncivil discourse” on behalf of Twitter.
According to The Wrap, Twitter is funding two projects – one to examine echo chambers and uncivil discourse and another to “promote users interacting with a wide variety of viewpoints.”
The echo chambers group will look at people who are following and talking exclusively – or nearly exclusively – with users with similar opinions. This practice “can increase hostility and promote resentment,” Twitter wrote in a blog.
The group will work to differentiate between uncivil conversations, which can be beneficial, and intolerant conversations, which it is working to decrease.
“The group has found that while incivility, which breaks norms of politeness, can be problematic, it can also serve important functions in political dialogue,” Twitter wrote in its statement. “In contrast, intolerant discourse – such as hate speech, racism and xenophobia – is inherently threatening to democracy.”
And who will be the arbiter of what constitutes incivility and what crosses the line into hate speech, racism or xenophobia?
Last August, when Trump was wrestling with whether to fire top adviser Steve Bannon, Tromble tweeted: “Trump quintupled down on his commitment to white nationalists. They’re just about all he’s got left. Bannon ain’t goin nowhere.”
Tromble tweeted earlier this week that “journalists, conference and workshop organizers need to come to grips with this. ‘I ask and they turn me down’ can’t be an excuse anymore. There are structural reasons why it’s more difficult for women and PoC to say yes.”
Her Ph.D. is in political science with a minor in transnational Islam. Her dissertation was titled, “Who Framed the Prophet? Media, Stakeholders, and the Debate over the Danish Cartoon Controversy.”
Another researcher on the project, Patricia Rossini of Syracuse University, tweeted during the Republican National Convention in 2016: “summarizing tonight: ‘hate hate hate WALL hate hate hate LGBTQ hate hate hate BAN IMMIGRATION hate hate hate LAW&ORDER #RNCinCLE.
Another member, Jenny Stromer-Galley, also of Syracuse, tweeted a few weeks ago: “Trump looks cruelty in the face and demands more of it. Time’s cover captures that well.”
The effort comes on the heels of a bad few days for Twitter.
The company’s stock has fallen in value 30 percent in the last week. Last Thursday, a number of news outlets reported Twitter was limiting the visibility of prominent Republicans in search results.
Ronna McDaniel, chair of the Republican Party, several conservative Republican members of Congress and the spokesman for Donald Trump Jr., were among those subject to the tactic, which is known as shadow banning.
Twitter blamed this on its efforts to improve the quality of discourse on the platform, but the shadow bans appeared to soley target Republicans. Victims included McDaniel, Trump Jr. spokesman Andrew Surabian and Republican Reps. Mark Meadows, Jim Jordan, Matt Gaetz and Devin Nunes.
The Democrats in similar positions – Tom Perez, head of the Democratic Party, as well as Democratic members of Congress, such as Reps. Maxine Waters, Keith Ellison and all 78 members of the Progressive Caucus – all continue to appear in the drop-down search menus.