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Twitter algorithm to fight white supremacy could flag GOP politicians: report

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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 new 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 issues explained 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.

A Twitter spokesperson told Motherboard that the description “is not [an] accurate characterization of our policies or enforcement — on any level.”

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. At present, Twitter uses human moderators to go after white nationalist propaganda.

Read more:Jack Dorsey says Twitter makes it ‘super easy’ to harass and abuse others, and addressing the problem is his biggest worry

“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 [Iowa Rep.] Steve King or maybe even some of Trump’s tweets,” extremism expert Amarnath Amarasingam told Motherboard.

King has been criticized for using Twitter to express ideas with white nationalist and racist connections. King also retweeted a prominent British neo-Naz i in June 2018.

Read more:Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Trump met behind closed doors to discuss social media ahead of the 2020 election

At the same time that Twitter is under a microscope for allegedly not addressing white supremacy, a number of prominent Republicans — including President Donald Trump — have publicly accused the company of being biased against conservatives and disproportionately cracking down on right-wing accounts, which Twitter denies.

On April 23, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey met with Trump in the Oval Office after Trump 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 explained was due to Twitter’s routine deletion of fake bot accounts.

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