Bloggers Say Twitter's Voter Fairness And Accuracy Project Less Fair, Accurate Than Voting - InformationWeek
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11/13/2008
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K.C. Jones
K.C. Jones
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Bloggers Say Twitter's Voter Fairness And Accuracy Project Less Fair, Accurate Than Voting

The Twitter Vote Report was subject to human judgment and technological error, according to two bloggers from Reno, Nev., who analyzed the network.

The Twitter Vote Report was subject to human judgment and technological error, according to two bloggers from Reno, Nev., who analyzed the network.Bob Conrad, a doctoral student at the University of Nevada, and blogger Ryan Jerz found that the volunteer effort to track and publicize voting problems during the 2008 election was not truly objective, as planned.

The social media project aimed to capture field reports of voting problems through volunteers who texted and blogged to the site, but Conrad said it had "so many potential loopholes that its result should be interpreted only as a glimpse at the sharing of views of a relatively small number of voters."

He said that Twitter Vote Report was a novel opportunity for people to share voting experiences online, but the processes for collecting and posting material contained "too many subjective interpretations of what to post to be considered reliable examples of the average voter experience."

The pair said that the following flaws emerged through their analysis:

Vote reports did not use hashtags. Small groups of users could dominate a state's report, as was demonstrated by a Nevada participant who accounted for 38% of the posts in his state. Entries were subjectively approved and dismissed, based on inconsistent criteria, for posting on the site. Finally, duplicate reports and irrelevant reports appeared on the site. For example, one user raved about egg salad sandwiches and complained that a liquor store was scary.

"I helped promote the Twitter Vote Report before the election because I thought it was an interesting idea and I wanted to see how it played out," Jerz said, after blogging live during the election.

He said some friends' posts never appeared on the site. He and Conrad advocate social media but they urge caution when documenting serious allegations like violations of voters' rights.

"Had the Twitter Voter Report followed clearly specified criteria for posting reports and worked with a stronger chain of command in its organizational structure, it is likely many of these problems would not have occurred," Conrad said.

He said it was ironic that "the American election process ended up more fair, accurate, and reliable than the Twitter Vote Report, which attempted to thwart voter suppression."

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