Twitter Users Seem to Widen Political Divide When Met With Opposing Views
Twitter users don’t take well to being presented with opposing political viewpoints, according to a sociologist.
On Sunday, The New York Times published an op-ed from sociologist Christopher A. Bail discussing “political polarization” on the social service. Bail discussed Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s claim last week during a hearing before Congress that Twitter’s algorithms do not give preferential treatment to one political viewpoint. Dorsey added that Twitter is also hoping to reduce political polarization with new experimental features his company unveiled last month.
Bail, however, said that Twitter’s efforts might fall short. He conducted research recently that aimed at forcing Twitter users to see and interact with opposing views. His research, which was conducted with 1,200 Republicans and Democrats, found that users only became more entrenched in their views rather than understanding.
“Republicans who followed a Democratic bot for one month expressed social policy views that were substantially more conservative at the conclusion of the study,” Bail wrote. “Democrats who followed a Republican bot exhibited very slight increases in liberal attitudes about social issues, but those effects were not statistically significant.”
In his findings, Bail determined that Twitter’s problem with political polarization might center on its character count limit. Since tweets are limited to 280 characters, Bail fears there’s not enough space for people to share a full point—and for others to understand that point.
Ultimately, Bail argued that Twitter should lift its tweet character limit and not force people to see opposing views. He cautioned, however, that social media might simply not be the place for a political discourse.
Twitter did not immediately respond to a Fortune request for comment on the Times op-ed.