May 21, 2017

Co-founder: "I'm sorry" if Twitter helped elect Trump

Richard Drew / AP

On Friday, Twitter co-founder and Internet mogul Evan Williams said that if Twitter is to blame for the presidency then, "Yeah. I'm sorry." He added, "It's a very bad thing, Twitter's role in that." His remarks come less than a month after Twitter co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey said "it's important" the president has the power to tweet because it holds him accountable.

Why it matters: The conflicting perspectives resemble a familiar dilemma for tech media giants: Could their openness and accessibility, meant to promote democracy, be causing more political chaos than we are equipped to responsibly handle?

Everyone's pressured:

  • Facebook: Following the election, media experts and political flacks alike pointed the finger at Facebook, saying fake news on its platform helped sway the election, but Facebook has continued to profit and retain more users than ever. Mark Zuckerberg initially shrugged off the allegations, but has since made a big deal of his fight against fake news globally. Facebook has invested millions in providing resources and attention to local newsrooms through the Facebook Journalism Project and has taken out ads in the UK, Germany and France showing users how to spot fake news ahead of their elections. It's made numerous tweaks to its ad format and algorithms to nix bad content.
  • Twitter: In an interview with Stephen Levy in Business Insider Friday, Dorsey said the platform is always looking for opportunities to "show what matters faster," to limit distracting conversation. Twitter recently moved from a time-ordered to elevating content they feel users should be seeing and content that pertain to their interests, "and potentially showing the other side of what you're interested in, as well."
  • Google: Last month, Google announced it will start using data from more than 10,000 human contractors known as "quality raters" to teach its algorithms how to better spot offensive, incorrect or misleading information. The company has made tweaks to it's algorithms to weed out bad content, and added a fact-checking tool to help flag bad content.

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