back to article Twitter's algos favour tweets from conservatives over liberals because they generate more outrage online – study

Twitter’s algorithms are more likely to amplify right-wing politicians than left-wing ones because their tweets generate more outrage, according to a trio of researchers from New York University’s Center for Social Media and Politics. Last week, the social media platform’s ML Ethics, Transparency and Accountability (META) unit …

  1. Mike 137 Silver badge

    "the social media platform’s ML Ethics, Transparency and Accountability (META)"

    Who d'you think is going to get a 'cease and desist' notice in short order? It'd be fun to watch.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "the social media platform’s ML Ethics, Transparency and Accountability (META)"

      I look forward to seeing Zuk have his new trademark filing rejected because "Meta" is so pervasive in modern lingo ALREADY. To me, it is about as rational as allowing someone like McDonald's to have a trademark on "Fries."

      1. Charles 9

        Re: "the social media platform’s ML Ethics, Transparency and Accountability (META)"

        Probably not rejected, but perhaps strictly limited to just an electronics company name, meaning he won't be able to trademark-troll the word for anything else. We could look at Alphabet for examples of the likely limitations.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: "the social media platform’s ML Ethics, Transparency and Accountability (META)"

          Since Google renamed itself I haven't been able to talk about my ox-house

  2. Warm Braw

    Their tweets generate more outrage

    I wonder if this will still be true in Trump's new antisocial echo-chamber?

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Their tweets generate more outrage

      As I understand it, Twitter users are disproportionately on the left of politics. At least that's what the studies I remember seeing have said for the US and UK. Don't remember what was said for other countries. Therefore they're going to be more upset by, and want to be rude about, politicians on the right twitting.

      So the likelihood on a Trump owned network (if it ever actually happens) is that it's all going to be Trump supporters complaining about twits from the left. i.e. a mirror image of Twitter, just a more unpleasant one.

      1. MrDamage Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: Their tweets generate more outrage

        So, in other words, the internet will go from being 4 websites posting screenshots of the other 3, to 5 websites showing screenshots of the other 4.

    2. sabroni Silver badge

      Re: I wonder if this will still be true in Trump's new antisocial echo-chamber?

      It won't. That's just another grift. It'll be gone once it's served it's purpose or raising millions for the war chest.

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: I wonder if this will still be true in Trump's new antisocial echo-chamber?

        Who says the next presidential campaign isn't the grift? After all, the first two times he talked about running it was done basically to increase sales of his book - and he dropped out early in the Primaries. Given the pisspoor way he ran his actual campaign (and the lack of any serious spending or fundraising until it was clear Clinton was already in deep trouble) I'm not convinced his third run at the Presidency wasn't just a book sales tour that went wrong either.

        Does he really want to go through all that again, and risk losing? When he can just sit around causing trouble and getting attention as is now, with a lot less effort. And presumably making money.

        Then he can end it all with some terrible orgy of toadying, where he makes various candidates jump through hoops in order to win his favour as the Trump candidate to go out and win next time - with him as the elder "statesman" and "wise" advisor. While making lots of money as well hopefully...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I wonder if this will still be true in Trump's new antisocial echo-chamber?

          His personality won't allow it. Now that he's tasted the top, he wants more of it. Besides, he learned that the position comes with benefits: most notably legal immunity. One thing he always looks for is a way to wiggle his way out of trouble. Plus he has his base pushing on him from below. Can't tick off his fanatics now, can he?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is main stream media any different?

    It seems all media in the world pushes the outrageous and upsetting stories for the sake of ratings and advertising dollars. The whole of media, both online and off, is built on the idea of getting people to talk, and nobody talks about an issue like someone who is outraged by something.

    It isn't good for society; it emphasizes the divisions and differfences that lead groups to hate each other. But we can't allow the governments of the world to blame online technology for things that happen THROUGHOUT human society, world wide.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      But there have never been any societal problems caused by lies or political bias in print media

    2. Citizens untied

      Exactly

      This is precisely what one would expect from today's "innovators" - Artificial intelligence trained by the least intelligent consumer.

  4. martinusher Silver badge

    There's probably an Outrage Factory out there

    People with right wing views that use threatening language have become something of a cliche here in the US. We all know about it, some of us have personally experienced it but somehow despite it being everywhere it just doesn't seem to generate outrage. Its not just talk, either -- we get reports of state government overreach like, for example, the University of Florida prohibiting faculty from testifying in a lawsuit about restrictions in voting rights (some convoluted argument about conflict of interest because the university is subsidized by the state) and it just passes muster.

    But should a Democrat politician put a word out of place the reports are headline news for days. It doesn't matter how insignificant the person is -- they don't even need to be a politician -- or how out of context the words might be (e.g. see Merrick Garland's comments about threats to school board members) it clangs up and down the media environment. Twitter is only a small cog in this machine.

    I'd guess that just as we've had a whole shadow industry spring up around "Search Engine Optimization" (i.e. gaming Google's algorithms) there's probably a similar industry devoted to outrage manufacture. It doesn't have to be a particularly large operation -- its reckoned that only about a dozen people are involved in keeping the entire Covid anti-vax thing going, for example -- and it doesn't have to even be organized. The problem is that we can't just censor people, its the down side of 'free speech' that we have to put up with crap, so we need an effective counter. (Although, as one site, Off-Guardian, seems to have figured out, turning off the 'like' counters appears to be a key element in lowering the temperature.)

    1. Snake Silver badge

      Re: There's probably an Outrage Factory out there

      Yes indeed. But should always be noted, as conservatives constantly vocalize, that there are fewer conservative-leaning media outlets than moderate/liberal ones.

      However, this does exactly opposite what conservatives complain about with media: it gives conservative media voices MORE power, not less, because the fewer media outlets therefore individuality have larger audiences and therefore the fewer media outlets have greater sway over conservative public opinion.

      Conversely, there are so many moderate / liberal-leaning media outlets that one outlet's eruption of outrage over an issue, unless picked up by other moderate / liberal outlets, only causes a blip in public opinion.

      Put out one outrage story on a conservative outlet, you'll get hundreds of thousands to millions of emotional responses (say, anti-mask). Put out one outrage story on a moderate /liberal outlet published in solo, you'll maybe get a blip of concern .

      1. Pirate Dave Silver badge
        Pirate

        Re: There's probably an Outrage Factory out there

        "Conversely, there are so many moderate / liberal-leaning media outlets"

        A "moderate" media outlet? Their presenters would have to be Unicorns, and their field reporters Sasquatches. They'd be that rare. And they would only be on-air for 6 months before the money ran out - there's no profit without agendas and extremism these days.

        1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: There's probably an Outrage Factory out there

          This is interesting, because if you listen to the (US) Conservatives:

          1. They make up the bulk of Americans

          2. They stand for "traditional American values" (which Liberals wish to replace with Socialism)

          3. They are outraged enough to attempt a takeover of the country (so you'd expect them to be generating lots of online outrage as well)

          So...why do conservative posts get more outrage than liberal posts? Conservatives can't read? Can't type? Don't feel the need to express their outrage at liberal posts and prefer to clean their weapons instead?

          1. Pirate Dave Silver badge
            Pirate

            Re: There's probably an Outrage Factory out there

            Just a guess that perhaps significant numbers of conservatives have left the Twitterverse, so there are numerically less conservatives remaining there to be outraged by liberal jackanapery. Perhaps they found better things to do - those AKs ain't gonna build themselves, and handloading ammo can be a tedious, time-consuming affair without the proper equipment.

    2. cornetman Silver badge

      Re: There's probably an Outrage Factory out there

      > But should a Democrat politician put a word out of place the reports are headline news for days.

      Oh yes, the democratic side of the political divide will rabidly turn on their own in a heartbeat. At least the conservative demographic seem to be a bit more open to a range of views.

      1. Snake Silver badge

        Re: There's probably an Outrage Factory out there

        That "open to a range of views" included being pretty quiet on misogynistic and racists commentary. They seemed to have little issue with it sometimes.

        1. codejunky Silver badge

          Re: There's probably an Outrage Factory out there

          @Snake

          "That "open to a range of views" included being pretty quiet on misogynistic and racists commentary. They seemed to have little issue with it sometimes."

          Seems almost like they believe in freedom of speech vs trying to label every dissenting voice as misogynistic and racist.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: There's probably an Outrage Factory out there

            But does this "free speech" then spur on adherents to take action in the real world ?

            1. codejunky Silver badge

              Re: There's probably an Outrage Factory out there

              @AC

              "But does this "free speech" then spur on adherents to take action in the real world ?"

              I guess thats the 'do video games cause people to kill people'? Or violent films. Which then brings questions over personal responsibility and if you should have freedom or be oppressed for your own good.

              Since someone can always be offended at almost anything is it right that you be allowed to express an opinion? Which then control freaks want to control the opinions you hold (e.g. unconscious racism). Remember everyone holds the right opinion but they are never compatible with everyone elses.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: There's probably an Outrage Factory out there

                To a certain extent I see your point. But if the atmosphere is one of ignoring or even encouragement? Does cheering on from the sidelines encourage the real fanatics to go out and do harm? Certainly in the US groups are feeling empowered to take matters into their own hands.

                1. codejunky Silver badge

                  Re: There's probably an Outrage Factory out there

                  @AC

                  "But if the atmosphere is one of ignoring or even encouragement?"

                  But also public discourse. Ridicule of the fanatic. Without this such opinions and groups still form but with little challenge. The increasing attempts to restrict discussion and language is only being resisted by such freedom of discussion even if some people view it as encouraging 'wrongthink'

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: There's probably an Outrage Factory out there

              "But does this "free speech" then spur on adherents to take action in the real world ?"

              Well, we had a black President for 8 years and, AFAIK, nobody took a shot at him, so I'd say probably not.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: There's probably an Outrage Factory out there

                Maybe having a Black President was a catalyst for some extremists.

                ( As discussed in the above posted Washington Post article. )

    3. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: There's probably an Outrage Factory out there

      An outrage factory? How cute you think there is only one.

      There are quite literally, thousands. Think tanks, PR firms, lobbyists, spin doctors, flacks, advertising agencies and most (but not all) news agencies and that's JUST the private sector commercial ones.

      Now think about the government ones.

      An outrage factory. LOL. So cute.

      1. Pirate Dave Silver badge

        Re: There's probably an Outrage Factory out there

        So, err, more a cottage industry then?

  5. 502 bad gateway

    Another explanation

    Being attention-whores conservative politicos often post deliberately inflammatory content leading to higher retweet rates from outraged observers. Just one of many alternatives I expect.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yet another explanation

      Being attention-whores, liberal politicos stoke outrage over tweets that would have been better left ignored. Just one of many alternatives, I expect.

      -----

      1. Gene Cash Silver badge

        Re: Yet another explanation

        A more modern version of "don't feed the trolls"

    2. cornetman Silver badge

      Re: Another explanation

      > Being attention-whores conservative politicos often post deliberately inflammatory content leading to higher retweet rates from outraged observers. Just one of many alternatives I expect

      Whether or not you think content is inflammatory probably depends on your personal political leanings.

      TBH most (but not all) of what I would consider inflammatory (and many of it batshit crazy) is coming from the left. Some topical examples:

      - Protests outside Netflix for jokes made by a comedian

      - Insistence on asking for people's pronouns, just on the slight off-chance that you will meet someone that is not obviously male or female, including (and I'm not joking) those who identify as demons, fairies, various animals, people of a completely different race and aliens.

      - Calls for the abolition of the police, followed by a rapid turnaround when someone steals their stuff or people violently take over their local neighbourhood, rampaging around with firearms declaring the place a "free zone".

      - Politicians calling the above "largely peaceful" to a reporter with gunfire and looting going on at the same time in the background.

      .....and so many more.

      Of course this comment will never be seen by anyone because it will be moderated out of existence.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Another explanation

        The post you were replying to was about politicians making inflammatory remarks .Those stirring up shit on the right are the heart and soul of the Republican Party, while the examples you give of the left are mere mortals. Vilification of your opponent, while ignoring policy is a conscious and intentional political strategy started by Newt Gingrich. While the Left does vilify their opponents, it's not done in a systematic, strategic way, and usually has an underpinning related to governance.

        Neither Biden, Pelosi or any major Governor or leader of the Democratic Party have called for the ABOLITION of the police, and your statement itself is an example inflammatory misinformation. If you're talking about "defund the police", that has nothing to do with abolishment. It's about using some of the money given to law enforcement for social programs, etc. I'm not defending it, as I think it's a wrong-headed approach, and I'm certainly not an apologist for all the idiotic white-noise that comes from the Left. Holy fuck can they be annoying.

        But characterizing "Defund the Police" as "Abolishing" is the type of pernicious rhetoric -- however mild -- that Facebook traffics in. The Players on the Right continually set up strawmen (such as "abolish the police") to fight and bitch and moan and be outraged about, but never, ever, EVER suggest any tangible, constructive policy to counter it. Conservatism started as an intellectual counter to Liberalism, which was a good thing for governance. It's devolved into vilification and opposition for opposition's sake, so much so that Conservatives are widely embracing the type of idiot-fringe Hollywood liberalism such as antivaccines they used to ridicule, just to have something to oppose.

        I was a moderate Republican for decades because I supported many, but certainly not all, of their policies. Today's Republicans not only have no policies of their own, they're unwilling to even engage in intellectually honest debate. It's too bad you guys yanked those Obamacare Death Panels out of your ass, as seeing where America's going, I'm ready to sign up.

        1. cornetman Silver badge

          Re: Another explanation

          > The post you were replying to was about politicians making inflammatory remarks .Those stirring up shit on the right are the heart and soul of the Republican Party, while the examples you give of the left are mere mortals.

          I see. So republicans are not "mere mortals" with a different opinion? And you don't see the problem there? My initial point still stands: whatever you personally find inflammatory leans heavily on your political world view.

          Don't misunderstand me, I am of a centre-left persuasion myself and consider myself a classical liberal. There are crack pots on both sides but for some reason many people just can't see that.

          Years ago, the political left was all over freedom of speech both as a legal right and as a public good, as a champion of the oppressed. Now that the left have captured the mainstream of public thought in many circles, they are less about freedom for all, and it has now become a conservative talking point.

        2. cornetman Silver badge

          Re: Another explanation

          > If you're talking about "defund the police", that has nothing to do with abolishment.

          > .... But characterizing "Defund the Police" as "Abolishing" is the type of pernicious rhetoric -- however mild -- that Facebook traffics in.

          That's one hell of a straw man you have there. I never said any of that. That's all from you.

          Some lefties *have* called for the abolition of the police and have hounded them out of areas, notably Seattle but there are many others.

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ay5h5dq14mM

          I never made any comment about the various police defunding campaigns, which are also pretty stupid in my opinion, although in some instances I have to wonder if they are efficiently funded.

      2. Insert sadsack pun here

        Re: Another explanation

        "Of course this comment will never be seen by anyone because it will be moderated out of existence."

        And yet there it is, right on the comments page, currently enjoying a 4:1 upvote to downvote ratio. Why the persecution complex?

        1. cornetman Silver badge

          Re: Another explanation

          > And yet there it is, right on the comments page, currently enjoying a 4:1 upvote to downvote ratio. Why the persecution complex?

          You haven't seen some of my other comments, infinitely more mundane yet presumably triggering to someone at the moderator's desk. I guess I was trying to call someone's bluff. Perhaps that worked, I dunno. {shrug}

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Mushroom

    Copilot

    The idea that 30% of new code on Github has been tainted by Artificial Guessing in the form of Copilot sends shivers up my spine.

    We all know how well autocomplete completes your thoughts. But it's one thing to face the wrath of the ElReg community for a post that you didn't copy edit before time expired and a whole other thing for Copilot to insert a bad line of code among the hundreds or thousands of lines where it will sit unnoticed until it blows up (hence the icon).

    1. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

      Re: Copilot

      “We hear a lot from our users that their coding practices have changed using Copilot," Oege de Moor, VP of GitHub Next, said. "Overall, they're able to become much more productive in their coding."

      Copilot is so much quicker than copy/paste from the internet. No more searching! Plus, computer says, so it must be correct. Right?

    2. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Copilot

      Github died when MS bought them.

  7. Trigun

    Look at the platform and who uses it:

    Twitter tends to be left wing in their policies, so when someone with a conservative or right wing (the two and not necessarily the same) outlook says something that, from a left wing perspective, is outrageous then the platform algortihs will pick it up and amplify it to get the hate-clicks (or "engagement") from the activists - which there are more of because the platform policies allows it to be more used as an echo chamber for them.

    The same would probably be the same if the platform was conservative or right-wing, but against left-wingers. It's about the biases of the platform and the people on it.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ahhhh social media

    Wholly unnecessary

  9. Twanky
    Go

    Twitterstorm

    Let me check that I've understood this correctly:

    1) Someone posts something on Twitter (a twat tweets).

    2) Some people who read it find it objectionable and bring it to the attention of others.

    3) Twitter's systems react to the rapid increase in interest and assist the spread to many more.

    4) The outrage is predominantly among those responsible for spreading the original post.

    5) Twitter sells more advertising.

    6) People who have used Twitter to spread the original (objectionable) post object to 'the system' causing a Twitterstorm.

    (I'm aware of the irony of complaining about a social media echo chamber in El Reg comments.)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Twitterstorm

      You left-off the step about stealing underpants.

  10. a_yank_lurker

    Twatter

    I have long viewed Twatter as the home of arrogant narcissists who have nothing better to do than to virtue signal to their nominal peers. As a group the Twatteratti despise center/center right opinions and thinking anyone holding such opinions are at best elbow draggers. There is no ability to actually discuss nuances on Twatter which worsens the problem; not that the Twatteratti would.

    1. Insert sadsack pun here

      Re: Twatter

      "Twatter" wasn't that funny the first time you said it, and making the same joke three more times didn't improve it.

      1. ecofeco Silver badge

        Re: Twatter

        Accuracy does not have to be funny.

        Twatter indeed. Only twits use twitter.

  11. ecofeco Silver badge

    Manufactured outrage is the best outrage!

    Manufactured outrage is so much better than organic outrage, don't you think?

    The human race is going to outrage itself right into WWIII, perfectly timed to coincide with global warming mega-disasters.

    Yay.

  12. Teejay

    Ah, yes, the left and the conservative way of dealing with dissent...

    Quote: "Twitter's algos favour tweets from conservatives over liberals because they generate more outrage online"

    There are, of course, two totally different ways of seeing this.

    Way 1, the left ('liberal') way: Conservatives are mean people, and this study proves it.

    Way 2, the conservative way: Left people liked to get worked up about everything they don't agree with, loudly voicing dissent, with the hope of shutting down any diverging opinions.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ah, yes, the left and the conservative way of dealing with dissent...

      Yeah, but what if they're both right?

      1. Teejay

        Re: Ah, yes, the left and the conservative way of dealing with dissent...

        Basically, I'd agree. I guess there is a lot of confusion about the terms. Conservative or 'right' is used, when people mean capitalists, and left or 'liberal' or 'progressive' is used, when people actually are talking about redistributors, who don't have to pay the bill, but usually directly or indirectly profit. I'm democratic, freedom loving and basic welfare state supporting, and I also criticise global capitalism. That makes me neither left nor right. I basically think the liberal-left have been hijacked by the ultra-rich, who just love the redistribution programs, and don't care about a few crumbs trickling to the bottom end.

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