May 18, 2020

According to Melissa Ryan, who follows disinformation in her Control Alt-Right Delete newsletter, Twitter has made more changes to its misinformation policy to deal with coronavirus-related mis- and disinformation. Yoel Roth, Twitter’s site Integrity chief, confirmed that this new policy would apply to world leaders.

In response to COVID-19 Twitter expanded its misinformation policy by broadening its definition of harm to include content that “goes directly against guidance from authoritative sources of global and local public health information.” This allowed the company more leeway to remove disinformation or add a warning label to content with mis or disinformation. Twitter also noted that harmful content from world leaders might also fall under this new policy.

Starting on Monday Twitter “may 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.”

So Ryan asked Roth if the expanded policy would apply to world leaders, elected officials and/or Donald Trump. CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan also asked Twitter for comment. “These labels will apply to anyone sharing misleading information that meets the requirements of our policy, including world leaders,” Roth replied.


Ryan isn't satisfied:

Since I started covering this Twitter has removed a few tweets from world leaders in violation of their policy. As far as I know, this has only happened three times. Most recently Twitter removed tweets from the Presidents of Brazil and Venezuela for violating the Coronavirus misinformation rules. Will we see warning labels start to appear on more tweets from world leaders next week? It will be interesting to see how and when these labels are added.

Of course, we have to talk about President Trump’s Twitter feed. Twitter has removed tweets that Trump has retweeted and flagged a video that Trump retweeted as manipulated media (their preferred term for deepfake.) But they haven’t yet removed a Trump tweet for a violation or added a label to a Trump tweet. Watching this all play out, with Twitter updating their policy over time as Trump’s tweets grow wilder by the day, feels like a game of chicken. Trump keeps daring Twitter to do something and Twitter keeps going out of its way to avoid that fight.

She contends that Twitter (or any of the tech platforms) shouldn’t have a separate policy for world leaders.

While I understand that Twitter doesn’t want to be in the position of removing tweets from a sitting head of government, the only way to enforce the rules fairly and not give world leaders even more power to abuse the platform is to have them apply to everyone. But I’m glad to see Twitter draw a line on Coronavirus mis and disinformation from world leaders.

Ryan points out that having a rule in place does make it easier for activists to demand accountability.

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