Twitter needs to change its business model so that people who provoke anger and controversy do not get the highest amount of attention, its European vice president has said.
Bruce Daisley told The Yorkshire Post that the social media giant’s current systems mean that user accounts which court controversy and divide people tend to perform the best and that this was “unhealthy”.
However he denied that this shift in direction would amount to voices being silenced.
His views come in the same week that Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey signalled a change in direction for the platform which has some 321 million monthly users worldwide.
Mr Daisley said: “He [Jack Dorsey] is saying that maybe judging an account on the amount of followers it has got, or a tweet on the amount of likes it has, gets optimised for the wrong things.
“It optimises for controversy, anger, fury.
If I tweet angrily and play to a certain constituency than that can get a lot more engagement than if I tweet something thoughtful and considered.Bruce Daisley
“If I tweet angrily and play to a certain constituency than that can get a lot more engagement than if I tweet something thoughtful and considered.
“We have witnessed that with certain social media voices because they court that explosiveness almost through polarisation of politics.
“He is clear that that seems to be unhealthy. We need to change that, it is a slow process.”
Mr Daisley attended the University of York and lived in the city for several years.
He admitted that any changes in the Twitter business model were likely to be controversial with users but denied that any changes would come at the cost of silencing people owing to their political opinions.
“When you start saying that maybe we need to change the system so that these angry divisive voices do not rise to the top, what immediately happens is that people say, whether it is left wing or right wing, ‘are you trying to silence these voices’.
“We’re not. We are thinking about how we can redress the balance where anger does not win and get the most attention.”
Twitter has faced a great deal of controversy in recent years over its ability to control abuse and misinformation.
However Mr Daisley said that a great deal of the focus of the team was upon ensuring that such misuse was contained and dealt with.
“If you spent time here in organisation you would be actually quite taken with the fact that most of the people are very focused on how they see Twitter working for good and that we are very aware when things subvert that,” he said.
“We published some stats yesterday which said that we are closing three times more accounts within 24 hours than we were 12 months ago.
“I guarantee you if we gave you the stats 12 months ago it would have been three times than the year before.
“So exponentially we are getting an order better and yet you are only as strong as your worst case.
“We are very much aware that we will never sit back and say ‘this is done’. The moment you get your systems better to deal with certain things people with bad intent will find a way to work around it.”
Mr Daisley added that he and the senior management at Twitter genuinely believed in the platform’s ability to be a force for good.
He said: “For me, there are everyday stories of kindness.
“We have a weekly meeting where we highlight these things. You end up being filled by optimism about what people when they are motivated by good can achieve.”