British journalist Carole Cadwalladr had harsh words for Twitter at TED2019: Bigger Than Us.
Marla Aufmuth / TED
British journalist Carole Cadwalladr used her TED Talk in Vancouver to put Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey on the hot seat the evening before he was due to take the stage.Cadwalladr, a writer for the Guardian and Observer in the U.K. who broke the story about how the United Kingdom’s Brexit referendum was hijacked by illegal advertising on Facebook, included Dorsey by name, along with Mark Zuckerberg and Google moguls Larry Page and Sergey Brin.“The technology you have invented has been amazing,” Cadwalladr said of the platforms, but they have become “hand maidens to a form of terrorism,” in the online abuse and misinformation being distributed via their platforms.“You set out to connect people and are refusing to acknowledge that the same technology is now tearing us apart,” Cadwalladr said, during her talk Monday evening.Dorsey, when he took the stage Tuesday morning in a discussion with TED leader Chris Anderson and curator Whitney Pennington Rodgers, acknowledged Twitter’s problems.“Right now, the dynamic of the system makes it super easy for to harass and abuse (other users),” Dorsey said, and unfortunately most of Twitter’s response has been based on people self-reporting incidents.In the last year, Dorsey said Twitter has devoted more artificial intelligence and machine learning to combing through and finding abusive or harassing Twitter behaviour more proactively, “so we can take the burden off of the victim.”Now, that machine learning now flags 38 per cent of abusive tweets identified for review and removal, Dorsey said.If that doesn’t sound like a lot, but Dorsey noted “that’s up from zero per cent a year ago,” and vowed that Twitter is working hard to deal with the problems of online abuse, but is also looking for systemic ways to measure and improve the quality of conversations on Twitter.To change the social-media platform, Dorsey said the company needs to focus on altering the incentives it provides for users to sign on. In the past, Dorsey acknowledged, Twitter has “incented a lot of outrage, incented a lot of mob behaviour (and) harassment.”What he wants to do is find easier ways for users to connect over shared interests.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey told the TED2019: Bigger Than Us conference that his company is sinking a lot of resources into trying to deal with abusive tweets.
Ryan Lash /
“We could do bunch of superficial things,” Dorsey said about the problems of online abuse, “but we need changes to last.”At TED’s opening, Anderson promised that this year’s conference would be an opportunity for participants to “push back” on some of the big issues confronting them, and the sessions involving Dorsey and Cadwalladr certainly contributed to that promise.Cadwalladr recounted her work with Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie to break the story of how the firm used Facebook data to micro-target advertising at a tiny sliver of voters that helped sway the Brexit vote via the platform.Their reporting, she said, uncovered multiple alleged violations of campaign finance laws in the way those ads were paid for and Facebook has been uncooperative in sharing what it knows about that with British Parliament.“What the Brexit vote demonstrates is that liberal democracy is broken, and you broke it,” she said about Facebook.And the lessons carried over to the U.S. presidential election similar micro-targeting occurred, Cadwalladr said, and shouldn’t be discounted in Canada in the run up to this fall’s federal election, she said in an interview Tuesday.“I hope Canadians look at what’s happening in the rest of the world and all these problematic elections and realize they need to take steps to protect themselves,” Cadwalladr said, “and you could be next.”Cadwalladr said she found Dorsey’s response “chilling,” because it “lacked any human emotions or human reaction.”And Dorsey’s defence that Twitter is proactive about removing white supremacist content and users from the platform didn’t ring true to her.“We know that kind of content is up all the time,” Cadwalladr said. During an interactive portion of Dorsey’s talk, Cadwalladr tweeted a reminder that former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke has a profile on the platform.“What is needed is for people to realize how our electoral systems have been completely undermined by technology platforms and are really vulnerable to bad actors,” she email@example.com/derrickpenner