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Jack Dorsey asks for help to make Twitter 'more healthy'

Margi Murphy
Twitter's chief executive is taking applications from the general public - AP

Twitter boss Jack Dorsey is funding an initiative to make his social network a "healthier" place, following repeated criticism of the social network over claims it has manipulated the general public and distorted politics. 

Twitter's chief executive said he was committed to "encourage more healthy debate, conversations and critical thinking," but needed outsiders to help the company identify how to monitor spam trolls and automated accounts on the site. 

"We’re committing Twitter to help increase the collective health, openness, and civility of public conversation, and to hold ourselves publicly accountable towards progress," Dorsey tweeted on Thursday.

He admitted that the company had not understood the "real-world negative consequences" of Twitter's instant conversation.

"We have witnessed abuse, harassment, troll armies, manipulation through bots and human-coordination, misinformation campaigns, and increasingly divisive echo chambers. We aren’t proud of how people have taken advantage of our service, or our inability to address it fast enough," Dorsey said.

The company is asking users to submit proposals for a Twitter "health metric" and state how much they think it will cost to fund.

One in eight messages about British politics posted on Twitter are generated by automated accounts known as web robots or “bots”, according to Oxford University researchers. 

A US investigation into the spread of fake news across social media found that a Russian funded "meme factory" called the Internet Research Agency employed workers to spend all day pretending to be Americans on Twitter and Facebook, tasked with making comments on divisive topics like immigration, religion and Europe.

The majority appeared to be pro-Trump. Despite widespread condemnation of the role Twitter may have played, Mr Dorsey has kept quiet about the matter until now.

It is this silence led Damian Collins, the MP leading an inquiry into fake news on social media, to accuse him of failing to answer questions about Russian attempts to use it for influence. Mr Collins suggested that the question-dodging was "increasing concerns" that Kremlin-backed "bots" disrupted the EU referendum.