Twitter will remove tweets that spread harmful misinformation, starting with the Covid-19 vaccine, the company announced, and starting in 2021 it will begin tagging tweets that push conspiracy theories.
The move prompts the company to follow Facebook and YouTube to tighten policies on coronavirus vaccination as the vaccine’s rollout begins around the world.
“Starting next week, we will prioritize eliminating the most harmful misleading information,” the US company said in a blog post.
“And over the next several weeks, we will begin to tag tweets that contain potentially misleading information about vaccines.”
Examples of posts that can be removed include false claims “suggesting that immunizations and vaccines are used to intentionally cause harm or control populations”, and claims “that Covid-19 is not real or serious and therefore vaccines they are unnecessary. “
Tweets that do not reach the level of potential harm will not be removed, but may receive a tag that links to authorized public health information, the company said.
Examples of that type of claim include unsubstantiated rumors, disputed claims, as well as incomplete or out of context information about vaccines.
The labeling will have a visual appearance similar to the company’s notorious US election labels, which are regularly posted in Donald Trump’s tweets falsely claiming victory in the US elections.
Twitter said it would enforce the policy “using a combination of technology and human review.”
Confusingly, the company has no way for users to report Covid misinformation or vaccine misinformation, even though the content is prohibited on the site.
Instead, Twitter says that users who think a particular tweet violates company rules on the subject should report it for any other offense, such as “threat of harm,” and use the text box to add that it is about disinformation prohibited.
The move comes two weeks after Facebook tightened its own policy on Covid vaccines.
The largest social network will remove claims that rise to the level of imminent physical harm, as well as claims that have been discredited by public health experts, even if they do not reach that level.
The Chinese network TikTok has also strengthened its policies on vaccine disinformation, announcing on Tuesday that it has policies in place that prohibit disinformation “that could cause harm to a person’s health or public safety in general.”
The company also said it would mark all vaccine videos with a link to “verifiable and authoritative sources of information.”
However, making such policies is easier than enforcing them, and at a parliamentary hearing on vaccine misinformation, TikTok was asked how one influencer in particular, Olivia Madison, had managed to gain 38,000 followers while making wildly false claims about vaccination.
Madison, an American, describes herself as “pro-life, pro-gun, pro-Trump.”
During a hearing of the digital, cultural, media and sports select committee in parliament on Thursday, Scottish National Party MP John Nicolson said of Madison: “She is very beautiful and what she does is absolutely wicked.”
If TikTok can’t remove someone with that many followers, he said, “what are the chances of you getting rid of the smaller fry? I mean, this woman is just screaming lies as publicly as she can in very professionally produced videos. “
However, the company quickly made up for its oversight, banning Madison from the platform entirely before the hearing was over.
“It’s a shame that a parliamentary select committee hearing is required to get rid of these things,” DCMS committee chair Julian Knight told TikTok editor Theo Bertram. “We can’t do it all the time.”
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