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Twitter's algorithm favours right-leaning politics, research finds – BBC News

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Twitter amplifies tweets from right-leaning political parties and news outlets more than from the left, its own research suggests.

The social-media giant said it made the discovery while exploring how its algorithm recommends political content to users.

But it admitted it did not know why, saying that was a “more difficult question to answer”.

Twitter’s study examined tweets from political parties and users sharing content from news outlets in seven countries around the world: Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Spain, the UK, and the US.

It analysed millions of tweets sent between 1 April and 15 August 2020.

Researchers then used the data to see which tweets were being amplified more on an algorithmically ordered feed compared with a reverse-chronological feed, both of which users have an option of using.

They found that mainstream parties and outlets on the political right enjoyed higher levels of “algorithmic amplification” compared with their counterparts on the left.

Rumman Chowdhury, director of Twitter’s Meta (machine-learning, ethics, transparency, and accountability) team, said the company’s next step was to find out the reason behind the phenomenon.

“In six out of seven countries, tweets posted by political-right elected officials are algorithmically amplified more than the political left. Right-leaning news outlets… see greater amplification compared to left-leaning,” she said.

“Establishing why these observed patterns occur is a significantly more difficult question to answer and something Meta will examine.”

Researchers noted that the difference in amplification could be due to the “differing strategies” used by political parties to reach audiences on the platform.

They also said the findings did not suggest that its algorithms pushed “extreme ideologies more than mainstream political voices” – another common concern expressed by Twitter’s critics.

This is not the first time Twitter has highlighted apparent bias in its algorithm.

In April, the platform revealed that it was conducting a study to determine whether its algorithms contributed to “unintentional harms”.

In May, the company revealed that its automatic cropping of images had underlying issues that favoured white individuals over black people, and women over men.

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Annamie Paul feels her exit from politics was premature – iPolitics.ca

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In her first post-election sit down, former Green party leader Annamie Paul said it’s been painful to watch the 44th Parliament kick off, while feeling that she was prematurely kicked out of politics.

Paul was speaking with David Herle, co-host of the Curse of Politics, in a virtual event hosted by the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee on Tuesday evening.

“When you think of what might have been … it’s been hard for me,” she said.

Ahead of the televised federal leaders’ debates, Paul said she had no budget to prepare, and instead worked with a number of 23 year old volunteers, while her husband stood in as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and her son acted as Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet.

Despite this, Paul was strongly praised for her performance in the debates, which she said did not make her nervous.

There were moments in politics when the good outweighed the bad, like when she had opportunities to push the conversation on the Uyghur genocide, she said.

Paul, the first Black person and first Jewish woman to be elected leader of one of Canada’s major federal parties, announced her intention to step down one week after the Sept. 20 federal election, calling her experience as Green leader “the worst period of my life.”

Asked whether her critics within the Greens were against policies of the Israel government, the state of Israel, or whether they were antisemitic, Paul said there were likely critics of all three natures.

Paul said she had little control over the party during the federal election campaign, in which the Greens won its lowest share of the popular vote since the 2000 election.

As Greens polled poorly throughout the election campaign, Paul said she saw the “writing on the wall” and knew she would be held responsible, even though she wasn’t the one making the decisions.

“You’re heading towards your own doom,” she recollected.

The “dispersed power structure” of the party leadership was spread between the executive director, the federal council and a number of volunteers, Paul said.

In contrast, Paul said Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole, who was elected party leader around the same time as Paul, could appoint political and communications directors as needed.

“I had none of those powers, whatsoever,” Paul said.

She could only appoint her chief of staff and those who worked in her office — “no one else.”

READ MORE: Annamie Paul stepping down as Green party leader

Paul placed fourth with nine per cent of the vote in her riding of Toronto Centre and her leadership was fraught with controversy.

During her tenure, then-rookie Green MP Jenica Atwin crossed the floor to the Liberals after being criticized on social media by one of Paul’s top staffers for comments the MP made about the Israel-Palestine conflict.

In July, the executive council sought a non-confidence vote in Paul because she refused to condemn the staffer’s comments, it was cancelled later that month.

On Sept. 25, just a few days after the election, an announcement was sent to all Green members that a leadership review had been launched.

Asked about young people considering entering politics, Paul said, “you have to go into this with your eyes wide open, and you have to know that this is not for everyone.”

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Study: Politics Outweighed COVID Severity in Reopening Decisions – Inside Higher Ed

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The political leaning of the county in which a college or university is located is the factor most closely associated with whether it offered in-person or remote instruction in fall 2020, research released Tuesday shows. The article, published in Springer’s Research in Higher Education, finds that the severity of the pandemic near a college and sociopolitical factors in its state were also associated with institutional decisions on how to offer instruction.

State political factors were a stronger factor for four-year public institutions than for four-year private or community colleges, while county political preferences had a stronger effect on four-year private and two-year public institutions.

“Given that in-person instruction was associated with increased COVID-19 incidence in the local area,” the authors write, “polarization, political identification, and institutions feeling compelled to operate as politicized entities (to stay close to the ‘in-group’) likely made the severity of the pandemic worse. These outcomes are aligned with the general findings [of previous research] that institutions seemed to give more weight to sociopolitical features over pandemic severity when choosing in-person instruction for Fall 2020.”

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Why American Politics Is So Stuck — and What New Research Shows About How to Fix It – POLITICO Magazine

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Why does American politics feel so stuck these days, with bipartisan bills vanishingly rare and solutions seemingly taking a back seat to constant attacks?

Our newly published research suggests an answer — and maybe a way to get un-stuck.

Most policies are rife with trade-offs. They have an intended outcome and some regrettable side-effects. Our recent studies suggest that political polarization in the United States runs so deep that it leads partisans to see the other side’s intended outcome as a ruse and the side effects as the real intention. In other words, Democrats and Republicans not only disagree about policy matters; they believe the other party’s agenda is intentionally designed to do harm.

We call this tendency the partisan trade-off bias, and it applies to both parties. To a Democrat, the purpose of an environmental policy that reduces carbon emissions, for example, is to preserve the environment, and a corresponding loss of coal mining jobs is an unfortunate side effect. But a Republican, our research finds, might look at that same policy and see a plot to eradicate jobs in the fossil fuels industry. Meanwhile, a Democrat might presume a Republican push to lower corporate tax rates is more about helping the wealthy and hurting the poor than fueling economic growth.

Of course, skepticism about motives is sometimes warranted. But, oftentimes, it is misguided, and the deeper it runs, the harder it is to get anything through the policymaking process. Unless politicians find a way to lessen the effects of the partisan trade-off bias, we’re likely to keep seeing stalemates on important policy issues.

We documented the partisan trade-off bias across five studies using online samples of a total of 1,236 participants, a mix of Republicans and Democrats. As an example, in one of our studies participants were randomly assigned to view a set of policy trade-offs, some proposed by Republicans and some proposed by Democrats. The policies dealt with taxes, environmental regulation, gun control and voting rights. Participants then rated how intentional they perceived the negative side effects of each policy to be. The more participants identified with the Republican Party, the more intentional they perceived the side effects of the Democratic-proposed policies to be, and the more participants identified with the Democratic Party, the more intentional they perceived the side effects of Republican-proposed policies to be.

In a nutshell, our studies showed that the negative side effects associated with different policy trade-offs are not interpreted by opponents as side effects at all, but as intended goals of the policy.

To date, the political science literature has shown that political polarization leads partisans not only to dislike each other, but to see the other side increasingly as a threat to the country. Our identification of the partisan trade-off bias reveals a psychological tendency that might help to explain this perception of threat. After all, how can you get along with someone who you perceive as intentionally trying to do harm?

The good news is that by identifying the partisan trade-off bias, our research points a path forward: Policymakers who pay more attention to this bias might be better equipped to achieve compromise. This means that rather than focusing only on the main goal of a policy, they need to communicate clearly to the public what is intentional and what is a regrettable side-effect of that goal.

Fortunately, our studies also suggest this might be achievable. The partisan trade-off bias happens not because people don’t understand a given policy, but because they don’t trust the policymakers who are pushing that policy. We found that the level of trust a person feels toward a policymaker proposing a policy is a crucial driver of the partisan trade-off bias. And when we were able to increase people’s trust in the policymaker in our studies, we saw the partisan tradeoff bias decrease substantially.

Existing research suggests there are many ways politicians can earn others’ trust, but one of the most powerful is also the simplest: making sure people feel their voices are heard and listened to before a policy is announced, including both those inclined to like and dislike a policy. When we told participants in our studies that a policymaker spoke with stakeholders from all sides of the political spectrum before rolling out a proposal, the partisan tradeoff bias subsided.

Practically speaking, these findings suggest that announcing a big policy goal, and then doing press tours and campaigns to tout its benefits, likely does little to build trust. What happens before the policy is announced is crucial to building broad support for the policy. Politicians need to make it clear that they are speaking with and listening to those likely to be affected by a policy’s side effects. In the context of climate policy, a politician might visit coal miners in West Virginia or oil and gas workers in Texas while in the process of formulating a plan to reduce emissions, for example. The more widely the politician can advertise these efforts — across multiple types of media and across the ideological spectrum — the better.

Giving people a voice in the process does not mean they will change their minds about the value of the policy. But it does increase the chances that they will see the policy as a sincere attempt to solve problems rather than a form of hidden malice. That, in turn, can help lower the temperature and de-escalate the cycle of polarization. The same lesson holds for those of us who are not policymakers but ordinary citizens who want to have better conversations about politics. If you think you know what the other side’s real intentions are, think again. What you see as malice might be an unintended side effect. And if you want someone to give you the benefit of the doubt, put in the work of making them feel heard before you make yourself heard.

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