Twitter is now slapping labels and warnings on content to let users know what they are and aren’t allowed to post about the COVID-19 crisis.
“Starting today, we’re introducing new labels and warning messages that will provide additional context and information on some Tweets containing disputed or misleading information related to COVID-19,” Twitter announced in a blog. The May 11 blog post by Head of Site Integrity Yoel Roth and Public Policy representative Nick Pickles declared that Twitter will “use these labels and warning messages to provide additional explanations or clarifications in situations where the risks of harm associated with a Tweet are less severe but where people may still be confused or misled by the content.”
Labels will encourage users to "Get the facts about COVID-19." Alternatively, other posts may have a warning that a tweets’ content "conflicts with guidance from public health experts."
The blog acknowledged that “Earlier this year, we introduced a new label for Tweets containing synthetic and manipulated media. Similar labels will now appear on Tweets containing potentially harmful, misleading information related to COVID-19.”
Now these labels will redirect users to a “Twitter-curated page or external trusted source” for company-approved information on COVID-19 that contains “additional information on the claims made within the Tweet.” The blog then added that for especially egregious cases, “warnings may also be applied to a Tweet. These warnings will inform people that the information in the Tweet conflicts with public health experts’ guidance before they view it.”
The platform said it would “take action based on three broad categories” such as:
“Misleading information — statements or assertions that have been confirmed to be false or misleading by subject-matter experts, such as public health authorities.
“Disputed claims — statements or assertions in which the accuracy, truthfulness, or credibility of the claim is contested or unknown.
“Unverified claims — information (which could be true or false) that is unconfirmed at the time it is shared.”
The blog then showed a matrix of different levels of information/claims on one axis and “propensity for harm” on the other to explain how information will be dealt with.
Information that is both “misleading” and “severe” will be met with outright “removal,” while “unverified claims” that are “moderate” will have “no action” taken on them.
Vox Recode researched the veracity of Twitter’s moderation claims and noted that some of them are well underway:
Recode did a quick search and identified several tweets pushing the conspiracy theory that the cellular technology and the pandemic are related. Many of those tweets — though not all — included the new label. But it appears that simply mentioning 5G and the coronavirus together might automatically generate the label. For now, it’s not hard to find tweets discuss 5G and the pandemic that have nothing to do with the conspiracy but also received the new label.
Roth, according to NBC News, explained via conference call with reporters that "These labels are a way for us to provide further context." Roth also specified that "We are not fact-checking every piece of content on Twitter and have heard clearly that's not what people want us to do.”