Twitter Adds New Labels, Warning Messages to COVID-19 Disputed and Misleading Tweets

Todd Spangler

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Twitter has introduced new labels and warning messages to posts that contain “disputed or misleading information” related to COVID-19, the company said Monday.

The new labels — which will be retroactively applied to older tweets — will link to a Twitter-curated page (or an external “trusted source”) with additional information on the claims.

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If a post on Twitter is deemed especially harmful, the social network may also apply a warning that “will inform people that the information in the tweet conflicts with public health experts’ guidance before they view it,” Twitter head of site integrity Yoel Roth and director of policy strategy Nick Pickles wrote in a blog post announcing the new policy.

However, according to the company, the labels may not show up in embedded tweets or tweets viewed by people not logged into Twitter.

The move comes the same day a new survey by Gallup/Knight Foundation revealed that 68% of U.S. adults cited social media as one of the two most common sources of misinformation — along with 54% who identified Donald Trump’s administration. That said, more respondents (47%) picked the Trump administration as their first response than social media (15%). The poll was conducted April 14-20.

Twitter’s latest effort to fight coronavirus-related misinformation came after the social network in March expanded the criteria of what constitutes harmful misinformation on the platform as it relates to the coronavirus. The policy broadly prohibits “content that goes directly against guidance from authoritative sources of global and local public health information” and includes a ban on posting information about “harmful treatments or protection measures which are known to be ineffective, do not apply to COVID-19, or are being shared out of context to mislead people.”

Twitter shared an example of what the new COVID-19 warnings look like:

To identify tweets that contain “disputed or misleading information” about the coronavirus crisis, Twitter said its teams are proactively monitoring content on the network using internal systems that “help ensure we’re not amplifying Tweets with these warnings or labels” and also detect high-visibility content quickly, according to the execs. Twitter said it also is relying on third-party partners to identify content “that is likely to result in offline harm.”

Twitter said that with respect to the COVID-19 labels and warnings, it’s focusing on three main categories Misleading information (statements or assertions that have been confirmed to be false or misleading by experts); disputed claims (statements or assertions in which the accuracy, truthfulness, or credibility of the claim is contested or unknown); and unverified claims (information that is unconfirmed at the time it is shared).

The company has already taken action in some cases against coronavirus misinformation. For example, in March, Twitter required Fox News host Laura Ingraham to remove a tweet that promoted hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for the virus.

“We’ll learn a lot as we use these new labels, and are open to adjusting as we explore labeling different types of misleading information,” the Twitter execs wrote. “This process is ongoing and we’ll work to make sure these and other labels and warnings show up across Twitter.”

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