Collision from Home: Twitter CTO: Misinformation Campaigns B

|Jun 25|magazine10 min read

- Twitter CTO Parag Agrawal speaks of the platform's efforts to combat misinformation during the Covid-19 pandemic and widespread protests across the US

- Agrawal says the last few months have reaffirmed the importance of public conversation, and Twitter's "mission" to serve it

- Agrawal  joined WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau, Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington, and The Handmaid's Tale author Margaret Atwood at the 32,000-attendee online event Collision from Home

TORONTO, June 25, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Twitter CTO Parag Agrawal today spoke of the challenges Twitter faces with surges in both use and fake accounts during the Covid-19 pandemic and Black Lives Matter protests. Agrawal made the remarks at the 32,000-attendee online conference Collision from Home, produced by the team behind Web Summit – the world's largest tech conference.

Agrawal said the surge in Twitter use "presents a fascinating challenge, especially in the context of the pandemic" and outlined how misinformation campaigns backed by states are among the most harmful on the platform.

"The most dangerous fake accounts actually don't look fake on the surface. They're the ones that inflict the most harm. An interesting category of that is state-backed manipulation attempts.

"We see a pattern where we find over time these fairly sophisticated campaigns to manipulate the conversation and (we) are able to attribute them to some state. When we do identify them, we make a public disclosure. We actually release the entire dataset, often many terabytes, so that external researchers can look into that, learn more about patterns that we might not have even seen and make us smarter going forward to be able to detect them better," said Agrawal.

Agrawal said he's "proud of the team for keeping the service up and running through these challenging times, in a moment when people were most interested and eager to use it," and spoke of what he considers Twitter's mission.

"We think our mission as a company is to serve the public conversation. The last few months have affirmed our belief in the importance of public conversations, as a people. Beyond that, we have an important role to play in serving the public conversation – Twitter as service," said Agrawal.

To this end, Agrawal spoke of the millions of fake Twitter accounts that get suspended every week before even posting a single tweet, as well as the technology Twitter uses to root out bad actors. 

"We suspend millions of accounts every month before anyone on Twitter ever sees them or before they're able to tweet, get into your timeline, get into search – they get suspended. Additionally we take millions of accounts every week that we challenge to determine if they are human.

"We have a large amount of algorithms that are proactively monitoring behaviours of various accounts over time, detecting patterns, which we see when we look at accounts not as a single account, but as aggregates of large amounts of accounts – and we see anomalies which can't be explained by normal usage," said Agrawal.

Watch a clip from the interview here.

About Parag Agrawal:

Parag Agrawal is the CTO of Twitter. He first joined the company in 2011 as a software engineer, having previously worked on research internships at AT&T, Microsoft and Yahoo!.

About Collision:

Collision is known by CBC as the "TIFF for tech", while Inc. Magazine calls it the "fastest-growing tech conference in North America". Collision is set to move online for 2020 with Collision from Home. Collision will return to Toronto as a physical event for the second year from June 21-24, 2021 at the Enercare Centre.

About Web Summit:

Forbes says Web Summit is "the best tech conference on the planet"; Bloomberg calls it "Davos for geeks"; Politico, "the Olympics of tech"; The Guardian, "Glastonbury for geeks"; and, in the words of Inc. Magazine, "Web Summit is the largest technology conference in the world".

Whatever Web Summit is, it wouldn't be possible without an incredible team of over 200 employees based in Dublin, Lisbon, Toronto and Hong Kong, including world-class engineers, data scientists, designers, producers, marketers, salespeople, and more. They've disrupted an old industry by building incredible software and designing mind-blowing events, revolutionising how people and ideas come together to change the world.

Useful links:

Collision images: https://www.flickr.com/photos/collisionconf/
Collision speaker lineup: https://collisionconf.com/speakers

Collision schedule: https://collisionconf.com/schedule