Twitter used an algorithm to crack down on ISIS-related tweets, but an employee said an algorithm targeting white supremacists could bar GOP figures.
- A possible algorithm that could allow Twitter to more effectively crack down on neo-Nazi and white-supremacist content could report and suspend accounts of Republican politicians, Motherboard, Vice's tech-news site, reported.
- Twitter has come under intense scrutiny in recent months by critics who say the platform doesn't do enough to crack down on harmful white-supremacist rhetoric.
- While Twitter used an algorithm to flag ISIS-linked content and all but eliminated ISIS propaganda, a similar algorithm for white nationalism could sweep up content tweeted by conservative figures.
- A number of prominent Republicans, including President Donald Trump, have publicly accused Twitter of bias against conservatives.
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Twitter is holding back from implementing a possible algorithm that could allow Twitter to more effectively crack down on neo-Nazi and white-supremacist content over concerns it could report accounts of Republican politicians, according to a report from Vice News' tech site, Motherboard.
A Twitter employee told Motherboard that at a recent company-wide meeting, an employee asked why Twitter — which has successfully used a sophisticated algorithm to identify and almost entirely eliminate ISIS-linked content — couldn't do the same for white-supremacist tweets.
According to the employee, another employee that works on artificial-intelligence (AI) issues said that such a sweeping and wide-ranging algorithm could result in some innocent accounts being flagged by accident, which may not be an acceptable trade-off.
In a separate conversation, Motherboard reported, the AI-focused employee said one concern with a white-supremacist algorithm was that it would inadvertently flag the accounts of some Republican politicians, potentially causing a backlash.
"The information cited from the 'sources' in this story has absolutely no basis in fact," a Twitter representative told INSIDER by email in response to Motherboard's reporting.
"The characterization of the exchange at the meeting of March 22nd is also completely factually inaccurate. There are no simple algorithms that find all abusive content on the Internet and we certainly wouldn't avoid turning them on for political reasons," the representative added in the statement.
Twitter has come under intense scrutiny in recent months by critics who say the platform doesn't do enough to crack down on harmful white-supremacist rhetoric. Twitter uses human moderators to go after white-nationalist propaganda.
"Most people can agree a beheading video or some kind of ISIS content should be proactively removed, but when we try to talk about the alt-right or white nationalism, we get into dangerous territory, where we're talking about Steve King or maybe even some of Trump's tweets," the extremism expert Amarnath Amarasingam told Motherboard.
At the same time that Twitter is under a microscope over its handling of white supremacy, a number of prominent Republicans — including President Donald Trump — have publicly accused the company of bias against conservatives and disproportionately cracking down on right-wing accounts. Twitter has denied those accusations.
On April 23, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey met with Trump in the Oval Office after the president fired off a series of tweets blasting the platform, writing "they don't treat me well as a Republican. Very discriminatory, hard for people to sign on. Constantly taking people off list."
Trump spent a significant amount of time during the meeting complaining about losing followers, according to The Washington Post, which Dorsey said was because of Twitter's routine deletion of fake bot accounts.