TWITTER’S algorithms hand the Tories a significant boost over their competitors in UK politics, a new study has revealed. 

The research studied tweets from elected legislators across seven countries and noted a “remarkably consistent trend”, namely that right-wing voices enjoyed greater amplification.

Twitter allows users to view tweets either on a “ranked timeline” - which has been adjusted by an algorithm - or on a chronological one. The study compared the likelihood of a particular post being seen by a user on these two timelines. If there was no difference, the score given was 0% amplification. A value of 100% means the ranked timeline doubles the post’s reach.

The study concluded that posts from Conservatives in the UK enjoy an amplification rate of 176% - compared to 112% for Labour

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The SNP scored similar to Labour, but the exact numbers have not been released, instead being shown only on a graphic. The LibDems’ amplification was lower still. 

The research took the Twitter handles of MPs only, meaning that MSPs in Holyrood were not included in the results.

Along with right-wingers in Canada, the Tories’ advantage over the other parties is the "strongest" seen across the nations studied.

The National:

The study noted that the fact that Conservatives are currently in government in Westminster may have meant that their tweets are amplified more. However, they found that when top government officials and shadow cabinet members were excluded from the research, the results “remained qualitatively similar”.

It was noted that in countries where the right-wing is not in power, such as Canada, their voices were still amplified more by Twitter’s algorithm.

Germany was the only place where left-wing voices were amplified more than their opposition, and then to a much smaller degree than elsewhere.

Overall across all the nations studied - the UK, US, Germany, France, Spain, Canada, and Japan - all politicians saw their posts amplified by the algorithm. It was the extent to which they were boosted that favoured the right-wing.

The study looked at around 9.3 million different Twitter accounts - which its authors say is around 5% of the global total. However, when calculating amplification relating to lawmakers, the researchers only considered reach within their respective countries.

The study’s authors say their findings are “based on a massive-scale experiment involving millions of Twitter users [and] a fine-grained analysis of political parties in seven countries”.

They add that the research saw “the most comprehensive audit of an algorithmic recommender system and its effects on political content”.

The research was published in the peer-reviewed journal PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America). It was authored by Ferenc Huszár, Sofia Ira Ktena, Conor O’Brien, Luca Belli, Andrew Schlaikjer, and Moritz Hardt - who are variously affiliated with the University of Cambridge, the University of California, University College London, and Twitter’s own internal accountability team.

You can read the open-access study in full on the PNAS website here.