The proliferation of fake news, misleading content and the manipulation of the thematic agenda are frequent on Twitter, and the social network seems determined to put a stop to them. As of September 1, the social network has begun to add brief descriptions in the Trends section (the so-called trending topics) to help your users understand why a certain topic, character or place is relevant at that moment. “Trends are one of the most important functions of Twitter and are generated when a large group of users – especially those with more than 10,000 followers – talk about the same topic at the same time for a certain period of time”, explains Oliver Serrano , a psychologist specialized in social media analytics and online community management, to EL PAÍS by phone.
One of the novelties of this measure is that the content curation team will also discard anything that is “potentially abusive, spam , or published by accounts that try to take advantage of the system,” according to the statement shared by the company. The problem comes from the fact that on many occasions, interest groups launch hashtag campaigns (labels) to influence a certain topic or launch smear campaigns and give the impression that that topic is supported by a greater number of people than in reality is.
Manuel Moreno, social media consultant and author of the book Yo also la lie parda en Internet , believes that “the objective of Twitter is to improve the conversation of users and avoid practices that dirty communication in the social network such as groups of organized pressure that positions themes or trolls programmed to react to certain characters and ideas, ”Moreno told EL PAÍS by phone.
Looking ahead to the next US elections , the outbreaks of the coronavirus pandemic and the political crises in Belarus or Mali, the new measures arrive late, or very fair. For Serrano, “the social network must make an effort to control what type of messages are launched in an automated way by groups that manipulate the platform’s algorithm and that, with a specific objective, move away from the spontaneous trends that interest many and which are the reason why this space was born ”. User complaints about tampering, spreading false information and insults not only happen on Twitter, but they are more common here. “This happens because, compared to Facebook, YouTube and Instagram, Twitter has almost no type of censorship. It is very easy to find explicit images, sexual content and hate speech ”, adds Serrano.
In March, the company announced that it would remove from the social network all tweets that received complaints for going against its new rules on hateful behavior, including the use of “language that dehumanizes others because of their religion, age, disability. or disease ”. In May, and motivated by the pandemic, the platform opted for a strategy similar to that of February: placing warning labels on tweets that contained “potentially harmful and misleading information related to the coronavirus”. In July, Twitter deleted a tweet by singer Miguel Bosé because it contained false information : Bosé applauded the alleged decision of the Bolivian government to combat the coronavirus with chlorine dioxide (bleach).
Moreno and Serrano agree that the social network has done a “good job” to eradicate the problems at their roots, but they do not believe that the measures imposed will be enough. “The quality of the conversation in the social network depends, above all, on the role that the users themselves play. Meanwhile, all those measures that have an impact on a better use of the platform and limit any harmful action will be welcome, ”says Moreno.