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Twitter warnings curb hate speech, study suggests

A New York University study found pre-emptive warnings on Twitter about hate speech reduced the volume of objectionable content by as much as a fifth.

Twitter warnings curb hate speech, study suggests
Photograph: Akshar Dave on Unsplash.

Researchers at NYU’s Center for Social Media and Politics began their study last summer in response to the migration of many Twitter users to platforms such as Parler, which are seen by many users as less censorious.

"We wanted to find a way that would basically prevent them from migrating to these platforms, but at the same time, that would result in the reduction of hate speech," said Mustafa Mikdat Yildirim, a PhD. candidate in NYU's department of politics and the report’s lead researcher.

"Knowing that someone else sees their hate speech [...] may make people think once more about the language that they used," Yildirim said.

The researchers found that just one warning reduced the use of hateful language by 10% a week after the experiment.

"Our teams are reviewing the report and its findings," a Twitter spokesperson said of the NYU research. "Broadly, over the past year, we've taken an iterative approach to our work, from encouraging people to more thoughtfully consider sharing content to taking several measures to slow down the spread of misinformation. We'll continue that iterative approach and look forward to building on our efforts with a variety of third-party partners on this critical work."

"We don't really know whether people would actually come back at Twitter with some type of backlash," Yildirim said.

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