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  • MaryGrace Lerin

Twitter Enacts New Policies to Reduce Misinformation in Times of Crisis

Considering the recent events and other issues concerning factual stats and news, Twitter is now aiming to curb the dissemination of harmful misinformation through its platform, with the implementation of a new policy that would particularly prohibit the amplification of misinformation during critical situations, such as armed conflict, civil unrest, and other events.

The policy was formed in light of the invasion of Ukraine, and Twitter is currently working on incorporating its Ukraine regulations into its official guidelines.

According to Twitter:

“Around the world, people use Twitter to find reliable information in real time. During periods of crisis - such as situations of armed conflict, public health emergencies, and large-scale natural disasters - access to credible, authoritative information and resources is all the more critical.”

In such cases, Twitter will move quickly to hide potentially damaging assertions behind a warning message, and such statements will be reduced in visibility in the Home timeline, Search, or Explore.

Users will have to go through the warning notice to access these tweets, and Likes, Retweets, and Shares will be disabled, as shown here.

In addition, Twitter says it would prioritize providing warning messages to prominent Tweets and Tweets from high-profile accounts, such as state-affiliated media accounts and verified, official government accounts. The new policy will only apply to instances where there is a /widespread threat to life, physical safety, health, or basic subsistence.'

But, how will Twitter decide whether something is genuine or untrue in real-time?

According to Twitter, information will be verified using reputable, publicly available sources, such as "evidence from conflict monitoring groups, humanitarian organizations, open-source investigators, journalists, and more."

That should satisfy free speech supporters who already believe that social media platforms make judgments based on political objectives.

No doubt, Twitter's policy makes great sense in concept — harmful news and propaganda can have negative consequences in a variety of ways, and it shouldn't be magnified through its app. Which, in times of crisis, is amplified even more.

Military opponents have used fliers dropped from the sky to crush the morale of their opponents in the past. Tweets, as well as social media messages in general, can perform the same function, which is why Twitter must act.

However, any additional attempts to limit expression will surely be met with opposition.

According to Twitter, the new policy will include warning notices to:

  • 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

Depending on the situation and region, it could be a tough policy to implement, thus while it is a great update and also a logical one, those who are hindered as a result may regard it as biased.

And it appears that it may, at some point, have an adverse effect, with the right information being suppressed due to the platform's quick action - but that risk may be worth it if it saves countless lives.

However, one has to wonder what Elon Musk, the company's prospective CEO and owner, thinks of the situation. Musk has been a loud supporter of free speech, and this appears to be treading on what Musk may consider being a fine line. We'll know after the deal is completed.

The first iteration of Twitter's new policy will focus on international armed conflict, beginning with the conflict in Ukraine, but it will gradually be broadened to include other types of crises, according to the company.

“The policy will supplement our existing work deployed during other global crises, such as in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, and India.”

Nevertheless, it will be intriguing to know what Musk's view is, and whether this policy is properly implemented for the app during the Elon era.

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