Twitter no longer will enforce a policy to combat misinformation about the Covid pandemic.
“Effective November 23, 2022, Twitter is no longer enforcing the COVID-19 misleading information policy,” a note on Twitter’s transparency pages read.
It’s the latest change under new owner Elon Musk, who has vowed to take a more relaxed view toward speech on the platform. He’s reinstated Donald Trump’s account, after Trump was suspended following the January 6th attack on the Capitol.
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Twitter instituted new guidelines in early 2020, as the pandemic forced shutdowns throughout the world and as rumors and claims about Covid spread rapidly on social media. They included “statements which are intended to influence others to violate recommended COVID-19 related guidance from global or local health authorities to decrease someone’s likelihood of exposure to COVID-19, such as: ‘social distancing is not effective,’ or ‘now that it’s summertime, you don’t need a mask anymore, so don’t wear your mask!’” The policies continued as misinformation spread about the Covid vaccines as they were first rolled out in 2021. In many cases Twitter added labels to tweets with misleading information; in others, accounts were suspended.
According to its most recent report in September, before Musk took control of the platform, Twitter suspended 11,230 accounts under the policy, and challenged 11.72 million accounts. Almost 100,000 pieces of content were removed.
Musk has said that he will start reinstating suspended accounts, having polled users on offering “general amnesty” to those that “have not broken the law or engaged in egregious spam.” The vote was overwhelmingly “yes.”
Meta, the parent company of Facebook, last summer asked its Oversight Board to review its Covid misinformation policies, including whether there is “another, less restrictive, approach would better align with the company’s values and human rights responsibilities.” The Oversight Board has yet to issue an opinion.
On Monday, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that the administration is keeping a “close eye” on developments at Twitter.
“Social media companies have a responsibility to prevent their platforms from being used by any user to incite violence, especially violence directed at individual communities, as we have been seeing,” she said. “And the President has been very clear on calling that out. He’ll continue to do that. And we’re going to continue to monitor the situation.”
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