Twitter cries for help to solve existential crisis of whether it's Good

Worried it's poisoning polity, Twitter seeks metrics to measure its health

Twitter's decided the time is right to measure "our contribution to the overall health of the public conversation".

The company on Thursday called for help to create "health metrics".

If the company finds it promotes "healthy debate, conversations, and critical thinking" it will feel it is healthy. A certain malaise would be indicated by "abuse, spam and manipulation".

The company knows it can't develop precise metrics itself, so has decided to "look to experts around the world for counsel and support." Hence an appeal to anyone with an idea to send it in for consideration.

The effort looks serious: applicants are asked to submit evidence of "Relevant, peer-reviewed, publications and papers" along with budgets and project plans.

Organisations selected to the work will receive funding "as an unrestricted gift …. provided in full at the start of the project."

Twitter's reasons for this effort are almost certainly the criticism it has worn for being blind to the army of propaganda-bots or - ahem - politically-curated accounts that spread fake news, and its own acceptance of ads from similar actors. The service also differs from other social networks by allowing sexually explicit content.

The company clearly knows it has a problem: its post announcing its desire for meaningful metrics stated an intention to "keep us accountable to share our progress with the world and establish a way forward for the long-term."

And given that the company recently posted an actual profit for the first time, long-term thinking may now be a sensible option. ®

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