Last week, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey announced the company is soliciting applications from people who’d like to help study Twitter’s health as a platform for conversation.
Or should we say, #health.
Today, the CEO took to Periscope -- Twitter's live streaming video app -- for a mobile panel of himself and three of his colleagues to answer questions from the public about the health of the social network.
This team included:
- Vijaya Gadde, Head of Legal, Policy, Trust & Safety.
- David Gasca, Head of Product Health.
- Del Harvey, Head of Trust and Safety.
- Jack Dorsey, Chief Executive Officer.
"All of us are a little bit nervous, so give us a little bit of time to find our groove," a candid Dorsey said before handing his phone to Gasca.
David Gasca: How They'll Measure Twitter's Health
The Product Health lead opened by explaining that they intend to examine the health of the platform "in such a way that is public and accountable," but also goes beyond simple metrics such as how much engagement certain tweets get from their users.
Gasca stated their efforts were at least partly inspired by research released by Cortico, a not-for-profit that suggested a few basic ingredients of healthy dialogue on social media.
However, according to Gasca, the "density" of certain networks within Twitter, as well as the idea of "social capital" may also play a part in its research.
In that spirit, Gasca said they're looking for new approaches -- both professional and academic -- to address what he admitted is a legitimate problem across the Twittersphere. People can submit proposals by April 13 via this blog post, after which time Twitter will contact a group of "semifinalists" for more detail on their proposals.
Vijaya Gadde: Navigating Personal Biases Within the Company
Gadde took the first question from a live viewer who asked if all four employees on the Periscope identify as liberals -- and if so, how that might create bias when they scrutinize political commentary on Twitter.
"This is true not just of [many Twitter employees], but of the industry, and of Silicon Valley," she responded. But, Gadde said, impartiality has always been a priority within Twitter. "We are very much accused of censorship and bias … and it's important to understand how … the engineers and the teams working on our algorithms may be biased as well."
This is likely top of mind for many at the company, following an ex-Twitter employee who reportedly deleted President Trump's Twitter account shortly before leaving the company.
Gadde admitted "everyone has bias" and that they're using this as motivation to come up with a healthy way forward.
Del Harvey: The Role Health Plays to Future Company Policy
Late into the stream, a question was posed to Del Harvey asking if the concept of health itself should be used as a framework for Twitter’s policies moving forward.
"We're looking at this … overarching, holistic view of health on the platform," she explained. "But that's not the only way we're going to be continuing to measure our success."
Still, Harvey said an initiative around Twitter's health can help reveal necessary connections between business policies, similar to how certain departments can become siloed from one another in the organization. Trademark violations, for example, may have a more visible relationship to intellectual property violations when seen through the lens of product health.
Harvey and Dorsey also heavily covered Twitter's treatment of parody accounts, many of which have been shut down for reasons related to their messaging -- but are also considered important to the culture of the social network.
"We believe [these parody accounts] add an enormous amount to Twitter, and that's something we always want to protect," said Dorsey. Regarding these accounts' involvement in inflammatory speech, the CEO suggested new types of account verification might come into play as well to ensure that "people know [a certain parody account] is meant to be entertaining."
The 45-minute Periscope covered numerous other questions from viewers, all of which are sure to play a part in Twitter's planned study. See the recording of the live stream from Jack Dorsey's tweet.
Will there be more panels like this one? Dorsey confirms there will be, mentioning "future Periscopes" where he'll introduce more Twitter staff to speak on this important subject.