Twitter quietly drops policy preventing sharing of COVID-19 misinformation | Science & Tech News

Twitter has quietly dropped its policy preventing the sharing of false or misleading information about COVID-19.

Under the policy, tweets containing misleading information about the disease could be given a label including corrective information about the claim.

Tweets that violated the policy and were severely harmful could be deleted and the users temporarily locked out of their accounts to prevent them from sharing further misinformation.

Twitter did not announce the change but added a note to a page on its website outlining its COVID-19 policy.

“Effective November 23, 2022, Twitter is no longer enforcing the COVID-19 misleading information policy,” the note said.

The update appeared below a line that still reads: “As the global community faces the COVID-19 pandemic together, Twitter is helping people find reliable information, connect with others, and follow what’s happening in real time.”

The social media giant’s COVID-19 misleading information policy no longer appears on the company’s website, but it was possible to view it using a cached version of the webpage.

It showed Twitter operated a strike system where those who had a label added to their tweets were given one strike and those who had tweets deleted were given two strikes.

No action was taken for one strike, but users with two to three strikes would be locked out of their account for 12 hours, while those with four strikes would be locked out for seven days and repeat offenders with five or more strikes were permanently suspended.

The platform suspended more than 11,000 accounts and removed nearly 98,000 pieces of content for violating its COVID misinformation policy between January 2022 and September 2022, according to information published by Twitter.

The site also reduced the visibility of tweets or accounts believed to be in violation of the policy by stopping tweets or retweets from those accounts appearing in certain parts of Twitter, displaying their replies in lower positions in conversations and excluding their tweets or account from recommendations on the site.

Content moderation team laid off

The change in policy comes after Elon Musk laid off half of Twitter’s workforce after taking over the company, with those responsible for content moderation, human rights and communications among the teams that were hit.

Hundreds of employees are also believed to have left the company after Musk issued an ultimatum for his staff to sign up for “long hours at high intensity” or leave.

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Sky News attempted to contact Twitter but no contact information was available on its website and the official Twitter communications account has been dormant since 30 October.

Musk announces ‘amnesty’ for suspended accounts

Last week Twitter reinstated the personal account of far-right US politician Marjorie Taylor Greene, which was banned in January for violating its COVID misinformation policies.

Musk also announced he was granting “amnesty” for suspended accounts after posting a poll for users to vote on reinstating accounts that have not “broken the law or engaged in egregious spam.”

The result of the poll, an unscientific survey which can easily be influenced by bots, was 72% for “yes”.

“The people have spoken. Amnesty begins next week. Vox Populi, Vox Dei,” Musk tweeted, using a Latin phrase meaning “the voice of the people, the voice of God.”

Advertisers and users have already been leaving the site over concerns about verification and hate speech.