Policy

Is Twitter good for democracy? The answer may depend on your politics.

Twitter is a news powerhouse. But two new Pew surveys find Democrats and Republicans are divided on whether that's a good thing or not.

Twitter HQ

Democrats are more than twice as likely to say Twitter is good for democracy than Republicans.

Photo: Bloomberg

Twitter has become a powerhouse in the news ecosystem, but Democrats and Republicans are deeply divided on whether that's actually a good thing, according to two new Pew Research reports.

The reports, published Monday, surveyed 2,548 U.S. adults during May of this year to find out about the behaviors and attitudes of Americans on Twitter. One of the reports analyzed Twitter users' experience on the platform generally, while the other took stock of how people use Twitter for news.

Together, they found that Democrats are more than twice as likely to say Twitter is good for democracy than Republicans. They're also more likely to trust what they see. According to the survey, while 74% of Democrats expressed some level of trust in the news they see on Twitter, just 52% of Republicans said the same. The reports also lend some credibility to the idea that Twitter is not real life: People who turn to Twitter for news, the survey found, are largely liberal.

Twitter's relationship with conservatives grew increasingly strained during the Trump presidency, despite the fact that Trump's 2016 campaign credited Twitter and Facebook with his victory. But conservative fears about alleged censorship on the platform came to a head in summer 2020 when Twitter began labeling tweets about mail-in ballots from then-President Trump with fact checks. Trump responded by introducing a rushed executive order attacking Section 230 in retaliation. The company further angered the right when it automatically blocked a New York Post article about Hunter Biden months later. The final blow, however, was Twitter's decision to ban Trump for life following the Jan. 6 insurrection, a decision praised by the left and condemned by the right.

That split is reflected in the Pew surveys. The survey focusing specifically on news consumers found that not only are Democrats and Republicans divided, but that even among Democrats, the more liberal a user is, the more they trust news on Twitter. Some 83% of self-described liberal Democrats said they trust Twitter news, compared to 59% of those who call themselves moderate or conservative Democrats. But this same disparity isn't present among Republicans, whose trust levels overall are lower and don't vary by ideology.

It may stand to reason then that Twitter news consumers are also divided about the site's impact on society. More than half of Republicans who view news on the site think it's bad for democracy, compared to just 26% of Democrats. In fact, most Democrats feel exactly the opposite, with 54% saying Twitter is actually good for democracy. This could be influenced by the fact that more Democrats found Twitter helped their understanding of current events and made them feel politically engaged than Republicans did.

In general, the survey found news consumers on Twitter are more likely to be young, educated and liberal than other users. About 77% of them are under 50, 46% of them have a bachelor's degree or more and 42% are liberal.

Despite their divided views of news on Twitter, however, the majority of Democrats and Republicans surveyed — more than half of respondents from both parties — agreed that inaccurate or misleading information is still a major problem on Twitter. And more than 90% of Twitter users said they had seen at least some inaccurate or misleading information on the platform.

The survey also analyzed the actual Twitter accounts of a subset of its respondents and found that, as with lots of social media platforms, the most active users produce the bulk of the posts. According to the survey, just a quarter of users produced 97% of all tweets between June 12 and Sept. 12 this year. These users tended to lean toward more political content and were twice as likely as other users to say they've experienced harassment on the platform. And yet, those prolific tweeters are also markedly less likely than other users to see incivility on Twitter as a problem.

That may be, but Twitter itself has been hard at work trying to promote "healthy" conversations among its users. The survey presents an undesirable, if unsurprising, finding for the company: that Twitter's most devoted users are also the most likely to get dragged to its dark side.

Fintech

Judge Zia Faruqui is trying to teach you crypto, one ‘SNL’ reference at a time

His decisions on major cryptocurrency cases have quoted "The Big Lebowski," "SNL," and "Dr. Strangelove." That’s because he wants you — yes, you — to read them.

The ways Zia Faruqui (right) has weighed on cases that have come before him can give lawyers clues as to what legal frameworks will pass muster.

Photo: Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post via Getty Images

“Cryptocurrency and related software analytics tools are ‘The wave of the future, Dude. One hundred percent electronic.’”

That’s not a quote from "The Big Lebowski" — at least, not directly. It’s a quote from a Washington, D.C., district court memorandum opinion on the role cryptocurrency analytics tools can play in government investigations. The author is Magistrate Judge Zia Faruqui.

Keep Reading Show less
Veronica Irwin

Veronica Irwin (@vronirwin) is a San Francisco-based reporter at Protocol covering fintech. Previously she was at the San Francisco Examiner, covering tech from a hyper-local angle. Before that, her byline was featured in SF Weekly, The Nation, Techworker, Ms. Magazine and The Frisc.

The financial technology transformation is driving competition, creating consumer choice, and shaping the future of finance. Hear from seven fintech leaders who are reshaping the future of finance, and join the inaugural Financial Technology Association Fintech Summit to learn more.

Keep Reading Show less
FTA
The Financial Technology Association (FTA) represents industry leaders shaping the future of finance. We champion the power of technology-centered financial services and advocate for the modernization of financial regulation to support inclusion and responsible innovation.
Enterprise

AWS CEO: The cloud isn’t just about technology

As AWS preps for its annual re:Invent conference, Adam Selipsky talks product strategy, support for hybrid environments, and the value of the cloud in uncertain economic times.

Photo: Noah Berger/Getty Images for Amazon Web Services

AWS is gearing up for re:Invent, its annual cloud computing conference where announcements this year are expected to focus on its end-to-end data strategy and delivering new industry-specific services.

It will be the second re:Invent with CEO Adam Selipsky as leader of the industry’s largest cloud provider after his return last year to AWS from data visualization company Tableau Software.

Keep Reading Show less
Donna Goodison

Donna Goodison (@dgoodison) is Protocol's senior reporter focusing on enterprise infrastructure technology, from the 'Big 3' cloud computing providers to data centers. She previously covered the public cloud at CRN after 15 years as a business reporter for the Boston Herald. Based in Massachusetts, she also has worked as a Boston Globe freelancer, business reporter at the Boston Business Journal and real estate reporter at Banker & Tradesman after toiling at weekly newspapers.

Image: Protocol

We launched Protocol in February 2020 to cover the evolving power center of tech. It is with deep sadness that just under three years later, we are winding down the publication.

As of today, we will not publish any more stories. All of our newsletters, apart from our flagship, Source Code, will no longer be sent. Source Code will be published and sent for the next few weeks, but it will also close down in December.

Keep Reading Show less
Bennett Richardson

Bennett Richardson ( @bennettrich) is the president of Protocol. Prior to joining Protocol in 2019, Bennett was executive director of global strategic partnerships at POLITICO, where he led strategic growth efforts including POLITICO's European expansion in Brussels and POLITICO's creative agency POLITICO Focus during his six years with the company. Prior to POLITICO, Bennett was co-founder and CMO of Hinge, the mobile dating company recently acquired by Match Group. Bennett began his career in digital and social brand marketing working with major brands across tech, energy, and health care at leading marketing and communications agencies including Edelman and GMMB. Bennett is originally from Portland, Maine, and received his bachelor's degree from Colgate University.

Enterprise

Why large enterprises struggle to find suitable platforms for MLops

As companies expand their use of AI beyond running just a few machine learning models, and as larger enterprises go from deploying hundreds of models to thousands and even millions of models, ML practitioners say that they have yet to find what they need from prepackaged MLops systems.

As companies expand their use of AI beyond running just a few machine learning models, ML practitioners say that they have yet to find what they need from prepackaged MLops systems.

Photo: artpartner-images via Getty Images

On any given day, Lily AI runs hundreds of machine learning models using computer vision and natural language processing that are customized for its retail and ecommerce clients to make website product recommendations, forecast demand, and plan merchandising. But this spring when the company was in the market for a machine learning operations platform to manage its expanding model roster, it wasn’t easy to find a suitable off-the-shelf system that could handle such a large number of models in deployment while also meeting other criteria.

Some MLops platforms are not well-suited for maintaining even more than 10 machine learning models when it comes to keeping track of data, navigating their user interfaces, or reporting capabilities, Matthew Nokleby, machine learning manager for Lily AI’s product intelligence team, told Protocol earlier this year. “The duct tape starts to show,” he said.

Keep Reading Show less
Kate Kaye

Kate Kaye is an award-winning multimedia reporter digging deep and telling print, digital and audio stories. She covers AI and data for Protocol. Her reporting on AI and tech ethics issues has been published in OneZero, Fast Company, MIT Technology Review, CityLab, Ad Age and Digiday and heard on NPR. Kate is the creator of RedTailMedia.org and is the author of "Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media," a book about how the 2008 presidential campaigns used digital media and data.

Latest Stories
Bulletins