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UBC researcher studying online abuse of candidates during federal election

Last Updated Sep 22, 2019 at 9:04 am PDT

This Friday, Oct. 18, 2013, file photo, shows a Twitter app on an iPhone screen in New York. A political scientist says that a federal report confirming the use of bots to manipulate social media during the recent Alberta election points to dangers for the upcoming federal vote. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Richard Drew
Summary

How is social media affecting our democracy?

Is online abuse affecting the ability of people to participate?

Researchers hope to answer those question by harvesting and analyzing huge amounts of data from Twitter

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Online abuse has become part of what candidates are expected to endure during elections, now researchers are studying the scope of the problem and taking a closer look at who is bearing the brunt of it.

The big questions are — How is social media affecting our democracy, and is online abuse affecting the ability of people in certain groups to participate?

UBC political scientist Chris Tenove and his colleague Heidi Tworek hope to answer those question by harvesting and analyzing huge amounts of data from Twitter.

“We don’t want social media, which could be a great forum for candidates and voters to interact, we don’t want it to be poisonous and to become an obstacle to participation,” Tenove says. “We know that we’re going to find a fair amount of abusive and harassing messaging online so what we need to do is figure out the best strategies for dealing with it.”

Their research will also include interviews with candidates to get a sense of what they view as harassment, and how they’re managing it.

“We need to learn from candidates and campaign managers and others about the best practices for dealing with abuse and harassment. We also need to know what it is about how the social media platforms are working — like Twitter and Facebook — to see if they are doing the job that they say they’re trying to do, which is to make online discussions more civil.”