'Twitter is working towards ensuring that its information is authentic & credible'

Mahima Kaul, Director, Public Policy, India & South Asia, Twitter, tells us how the platform has upped the amount of Machine Learning and AI to identify negative content and harmful accounts

e4m by Christina Moniz
Published: May 13, 2020 8:18 AM  | 4 min read
Mahima Kaul

One of the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and the nationwide lockdown has been the spread of unverified news and rumours, often causing panic and anxiety among citizens. India has seen its fair share of rumour mongering during this crisis, making the job of news and media companies incredibly challenging. Even as people look to TV news channels and newspapers for information, a good number of them are also taking to microblogging and social networking platform Twitter to connect with the authorities and to get updates on real time.
Mahima Kaul, Director, Public Policy, India and South Asia, Twitter (@MissKaul on Twitter) says that it is at times like these that the platform works overtime along with relevant authorities to ensure that its information is authentic and credible.

Keeping information reliable
Kaul explains that the company has been quick to deploy new tools and means to help Indian citizens get real time information that is reliable. “We have realized the important role that our service plays, especially during a pandemic like this. People are confined to their homes and are coming to social media platforms to get information and to hear directly from the government, scientists, journalists and academics. And so we are working hard overtime to make sure we can actually help you find the content that you are looking for. Part of what we have done is we have updated our safety rules to broaden our definition of harm so that we are able to take down tweets that give misinformation, which is harmful or which could result in denial of medical advice.”

Kaul adds that the platform is also working closely with authorities, both national and international, to ensure that they get credible information in a timely manner. “Another thing we are doing is taking down dehumanising language because sometimes people do look for blame during these times of crisis. Twitter has also upped the amount of Machine Learning and AI, using a lot more technology to be able to surface some of this negative content and harmful accounts, and be able to action those in real time,” she added.

On partnering with the government
Last month, the ministry of health and family welfare got Twitter Seva on board to help people find quick responses to their health-related queries during the pandemic. Through this move, users on Twitter can get their concerns addressed by tweeting to @CovidIndiaSeva.

Kaul explains how the platform has been working with multiple authorities to ensure that citizens’ fears and concerns are resolved quickly. “We’ve been working closely with the government on COVID-related responses. One part of it is at the state-level where we have state governments that have set up dedicated handles to answer people’s questions on both, the coronavirus and on the lockdown. The police too have been using the platform to respond to questions from citizens. We also have with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare launched Twitter Seva, a handle meant to respond at scale to questions around coronavirus and to address any misinformation or provide medical information that people might seek. We are happy to be working with the ministry, and I think it just reinforces the strength of Twitter at a time like this.”

The platform has also deployed certain product builds across 64 countries, including India, to direct people to sources like the WHO or the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to get accurate information.

Enabling public outreach
The company has also rolled out a community outreach initiative called #EachOneReachOne in order to bring people together to share information, remove social stigma attached to the disease, promote mental health and to drive donations for those in need.

Speaking about the initiative, Kaul says, “Through this initiative, we work with NGOs to have important conversations about mental health, how to help relief efforts, how to donate, etc. The hashtag runs in Hindi also and it’s called ‘ek dusre ke liye’. People are looking for that human connection and we’re really happy to be able to serve that on Twitter.”

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