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Twitter and Misinformation

Updated: Jun 9

Contributor: Micah Rea

3/1/2021

Twitter has announced a new plan to stop the spread of misinformation on the COVID-19 vaccine. After receiving complaints about the abundance of misinformation on the social media platform, Twitter released this statement.


We will begin applying labels to Tweets that may contain misleading information about COVID-19 vaccines, in addition to our continued efforts to remove the most harmful COVID-19 misleading information from the service.”


Twitter will follow a system that temporarily locks out first offending users, and permanently bans users with multiple offenses of spreading misinformation. Twitter has already removed 8,400 tweets, and challenged the validity of 11.5 million accounts worldwide. Twitter made this decision after Facebook banned the spreading of vaccine misinformation in February. The public’s lack of trust in news outlets has caused users to obtain unreliable information from other sources. With a surge of misinformation regarding politics, health, and international affairs, social media sites are being pressured into using more intensive monitoring techniques.


According to Section 230 of the Communication Decency Act of 1996, social media sites are not liable for the content posted on their platforms, however COVID-19 is a topic of great controversy, and the misinformation regarding the vaccine could cause great damage in the efforts to halt COVID-19.


By making these decisions, Twitter is censoring the thoughts and ideas of real people. This could spark controversy, as many social media users value freedom of thought, regardless of accuracy. However, Twitter is putting a stop to this misinformation for the public good. These actions are the first steps of halting the spread of misinformation via social media.


Take-aways:

- Companies are now responsible for more than just themselves. The public interest should be taken into consideration when making decisions.


- Major Policy change within a company must be implemented slowly, in order to mitigate the risk of outrage. If Twitter instantly blocked any tweet disparaging the vaccine, it would have caused controversy, but this process allows twitter to not over-step, and still put a stop to misinformation.


- Twitter following Facebook’s policies in regards it misinformation conveys that monitoring the actions of competitors can lead to ideas within your own company.


Sources:

https://www.theverge.com/2021/3/1/22307919/twitter-covid-19-vaccine-labels-five-strike-system

https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2021/03/01/twitter-label-tweets-may-contain-misleading-info-related-covid-19-vaccines/6875857002/

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2021/mar/01/twitter-coronavirus-vaccine-misinformation-labels

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