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Twitter establishes new ‘strike’ system for dealing with vaccine misinformation

Misleading tweets will be amended with links to information that the company deems more credible

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Photo (c) Peter Dazeley - Getty Images
Twitter is continuing to take a hard line against misinformation. On top of its monitoring of false claims about COVID-19 in general, the company announced on Monday that it will also start flagging tweets that may contain misleading information specifically about COVID-19 vaccines. To date, Twitter claims to have removed more than 8,400 tweets and challenged 11.5 million accounts since it began its crusade against pandemic-related misinformation.

The social media platform’s new enforcement system is strike-based. The first strike is basically a warning and doesn’t affect a user’s account, but two and three strikes earn a user a 12-hour account lock; four strikes brings on a 7-day lock; and five or more strikes will get a user a permanent suspension.

“Through the use of the strike system, we hope to educate people on why certain content breaks our rules so they have the opportunity to further consider their behavior and their impact on the public conversation,” the company said in announcing the new system.

Twitter’s criteria

The new strike system is similar to Twitter's recent update to its Civic Integrity Policy, which first made news when the company flagged former president Donald Trump for tweets that may have misled people into thinking they don’t need to register to get a ballot.

When it comes to Twitter’s overall COVID-19 misleading information policy, it already has well-defined criteria for labeling what it considers a misleading tweet. With the new vaccine-specific rules, Twitter says it will also “label or remove false or misleading information about” the following:

  • “COVID-19 vaccines that invoke a deliberate conspiracy by malicious and/or powerful forces;”

  • “Adverse impacts or effects of receiving vaccinations, where these claims have been widely debunked;”

  • “Vaccines and vaccination programs which suggest that COVID-19 vaccinations are part of a deliberate or intentional attempt to cause harm or control populations;” and

  • “How vaccines are developed, tested, and approved by official health agencies as well as information about government recommendations.”

When Twitter identifies a tweet as “misleading,” it will label it as such and, alongside the label,  include links to relevant information from official agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or Twitter’s rules regarding why the tweet was flagged.

While many in the Big Tech brotherhood use artificial intelligence to scan for misinformation and hate speech, Twitter says that labels will first be applied by its team members when they determine content violates its COVID-19 vaccine misinformation rules. In turn, those assessments will be added to its automated tools so that those tools become more effective in guarding against out-of-line tweets. 

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