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Tuesday, December 07, 2021

Polite warnings may reduce hate speech on Twitter: New York University study finds

The research published in journal "Perspectives on Politics paper", attempts to check how issuing warnings of possible suspensions can curb the use of hate speech.

By: Tech Desk | Pune |
Updated: November 24, 2021 6:31:05 pm
Warnings May Reduce Hate Speech on Twitter. (File Image)

Researchers have found a new way to curb hate speech on the microblogging platform Twitter. A new study by New York University’s Center for Social Media and Politics has found that polite warning to users indulging in hate speech can help reduce overall hate speech on Twitter for almost a week.

“Debates over the effectiveness of social media account suspensions and bans on abusive users abound, but we know little about the impact of either warning a user of suspending an account or of outright suspensions in order to reduce hate speech,” explains Mustafa Mikdat Yildirim, an NYU doctoral candidate and the lead author of the paper, which appears in the journal Perspectives on Politics.

“Even though the impact of warnings is temporary, the research nonetheless provides a potential path forward for platforms seeking to reduce the use of hateful language by users,” he added.

The research published in journal “Perspectives on Politics paper”, attempts to check how issuing warnings of possible suspensions can curb the use of hate speech.

Finding the suitable candidates

To do so, the paper’s authors designed a series of experiments aimed at instilling the possible consequences of the use of hate and related speech.

Researchers downloaded more than 600,000 tweets on July 21, 2020 that contained at least one word from hateful language dictionaries used in previous research. During the period, Twitter was flooded by hateful tweets against both the Asian and Black communities due to the coronavirus pandemic and Black Lives Matter protests.

From this group of users of hateful language, the researchers obtained a sample of approximately 4,300 followers of users who had been suspended by Twitter during this period. These followers were divided into six treatment groups and one control group.

Reduction in hate speech

The researchers tweeted one of six possible warning messages to these users, from unofficial accounts,  all prefaced with this sentence: “The user [@account] you follow was suspended, and I suspect that this was because of hateful language.” It was followed by different types of warnings, ranging from “If you continue to use hate speech, you might get suspended temporarily” to “If you continue to use hate speech, you might lose your posts, friends and followers, and not get your account back.” The control group did not receive any messages.

Interestingly, the users who received these warning messages reduced the ratio of tweets containing hateful language by up to 10 percent a week later. There was no significant reduction among those in the control group.

Meanwhile, in cases in which the messaging to users was more politely phrased such as, “I understand that you have every right to express yourself but please keep in mind that using hate speech can get you suspended,” the decline reached 15 to 20 percent.

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