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Twitter devises crisis misinformation policy

The policy’s scope appears to be shaped by the Russia-Ukraine war.

Twitter has introduced a crisis misinformation policy that will seek to amplify “credible and authoritative information” in times of crises. The company wrote that it wants to prevent the recommendation of viral misinformation by its algorithms.

“…misleading information can undermine public trust and cause further harm to already vulnerable communities….this new approach will help to slow the spread by us of the most visible, misleading content, particularly that which could lead to severe harms,” read the blog post by the company.

Why it matters: Twitter is often a source of information and resources during situations of armed conflict, public health emergencies, and natural disasters. It has also led to a proliferation of misinformation as users are more susceptible to falling prey. This policy may help curb the spread of viral content which is not factually accurate and ensure credible information reaches those who need it.

What does the policy entail: Twitter, once it has evidence, will not “amplify or recommend” a claim that may be misleading across Twitter. It will include restricting content in the following sections:

  • Home timeline
  • Search
  • Explore

Addition of a warning label: Twitter also said that it will prioritise adding warning notices to “highly visible Tweets and Tweets from high profile accounts, such as state-affiliated media accounts, verified, official government accounts”.

Source: Twitter

What you’ll see on Twitter: A violation will attract a label that will require people to click through the warning notice to view the tweet.

  • Twitter also said that Likes, Retweets, and Shares will be disabled.
  • The label will carry a link to Twitter’s approach to crisis misinformation.

What kind of content can attract a label: A warning notice may be added to the following content:

  • False coverage or event reporting, or information that mischaracterizes conditions on the ground as a conflict evolves;
  • False allegations regarding use of force, incursions on territorial sovereignty, or around the use of weapons;
  • Demonstrably false or misleading allegations of war crimes or mass atrocities against specific populations;
  • False information regarding international community response, sanctions, defensive actions, or humanitarian operations.

How will Twitter deal with repeat offenders: There is a strike system in place to deal with accounts which repeatedly violate the policy.

  • Two notices applied within 30 days will result in a 12-hour account time-out.
  • Three or more notices applied within 30 days will result in 7-day time-outs.

How Twitter will ascertain the veracity of content: “We require verification from multiple credible, publicly available sources, including evidence from conflict monitoring groups, humanitarian organisations, open-source investigators, journalists, and more to determine whether claims are misleading,” read the post.

Will Twitter expand its definition of crisis? The scope of this policy includes international armed conflict at present, presumably shaped by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The company plans to enforce this around other emergent global crises, informed by the United Nations Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC)’s emergency response framework, and other global humanitarian frameworks.

How long this policy has been in the works: The company said that it has been developing a crisis misinformation framework since last year by referencing input from global experts and human rights organisations.

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What is not included in the scope of this policy: Twitter said that strong commentary, efforts to debunk or fact check, and personal anecdotes or first-person accounts will not be covered by the policy.

How will this impact India: The policy has not been updated to cover other crises so it may not affect India in the short term. But Twitter has had a frosty relationship with the Indian government over its handling of right-wing content so it is likely that this policy may put the government and the microblogging platform at loggerheads, again.

  • In May 2021, the company attached a tag of “manipulated media” to a tweet by Sambit Patra who is one of the spokespersons for the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP)— the majority party in the ruling coalition.
  • It raised a hue and cry as government officials moved to get the platform to remove the tag to no avail.
  • Twitter has also flagged tweets by Shefali Vaidya — a prominent right-wing influencer on the platform.
  • It also took down tweets by the BJP’s Karnataka unit on the hijab ban in the state’s schools and colleges citing a violation of the platform’s rules.

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Written By

I cover several beats such as Crypto, Telecom, and OTT at MediaNama. I can be found loitering at my local theatre when I am off work consuming movies by the dozen.

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.

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