Twitter will publicize rules around abuse to test if behavior changes

As part of Twitter’s efforts to rid its platform of abuse and hate, the company is teaming up with researchers Susan Benesch, a faculty associate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, and J. Nathan Matias, a post-doc research associate at Princeton University, to study online abuse. Today, Twitter is going to start testing an idea that if it shows people its rules, behavior will improve.

“In an experiment starting today, Twitter is publicizing its rules, to test whether this improves civility,” Benesch and Matias wrote on Medium. “We proposed this idea to Twitter and designed an experiment to evaluate it.”

The idea is that by showing people the rules, their behavior will improve on the platform. The researchers point to evidence of when institutions clearly publish rules, people are more likely to follow them.

The researchers assure the privacy of Twitter users will be protected. For example, Twitter will only provide anonymized, aggregated information.

“Since we will not receive identifying information on any individual person or Twitter account, we cannot and will not mention anyone or their Tweets in our publications,” the researchers wrote.

Last month, Twitter began soliciting proposals from the public to help the social network capture, measure and evaluate healthy interactions on the platform. This was part of Twitter’s commitment “to help increase the collective health, openness, and civility of public conversation,” Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said in a tweet.

It’s not clear how widespread the test will be. I’ve reached out to Twitter and will update this story if I learn more, but it seems that the company won’t be releasing specifics.

In the meantime, holler at me (megan@techcrunch.com) if these rules show up for you.

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