Twitter may block or hide content deemed to be misinformation to prevent it from going viral.
The social media platform announced its new crisis misinformation policy on May 19 to manage what information gets widely shared during periods of strife.
“During moments of crisis, establishing whether something is true or false can be exceptionally challenging,” wrote Yoel Roth, the Head of Safety & Integrity at Twitter.
The “global policy…will guide our efforts to elevate credible, authoritative information, and will help to ensure viral misinformation isn’t amplified or recommended by us during crises,” per the company’s statement
The company says the policy will protect vulnerable communities and public trust by slowing the spread of “the most visible, misleading content.”
According to Twitter, a crisis is any “situation in which there is a widespread threat to life, physical safety, health, or basic subsistence.” It was developed from a definition used by the United Nations.
This included armed conflict, public health emergencies, and large-scale natural disasters. The platform intends to rely on the United Nations Inter-Agency Standing Committee’s emergency response framework to determine when to enforce the policy.
“Hoax tweets and other misinformation regularly go viral during emergencies, as users rush to share unverified information,” reports The Verge. “The sheer speed of events makes it difficult to implement normal verification or fact-checking systems, creating a significant challenge for moderators.”
Claims or statements that cannot be verified by “multiple credible, publicly available sources” could be deemed misinformation by Twitter, which will prevent the content from being amplified or recommended. Sources can include conflict monitoring groups, humanitarian organizations, open-source investigators, or journalists. The company will limit the appearance of information it does not verify on the platform’s Home timeline, Search, and Explore pages.
“In addition, we will prioritize adding warning notices to highly visible Tweets and Tweets from high profile accounts, such as state-affiliated media accounts, verified, official government accounts,” said Roth.
Instead of being deleted or banned, likes, retweets and shares will be disabled on restricted content and users will have to click through a warning to view the message.
Content considered by Twitter to be “strong commentary, efforts to debunk or fact check, and personal anecdotes or first person accounts” would not be subject to the crisis misinformation policy.
According to the Twitter executive, “content moderation is more than just leaving up or taking down content,” so the company “expanded the range of actions [it] may take to ensure they’re proportionate to the severity of the potential harm.”
Twitter has stated new screening rules will only be used for limited events. The policy is in effect for information shared regarding the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
Elon Musk, who is in the middle of negotiating the purchase of Twitter, has not yet publically commented on the policy.