Twitter introduced an update to its “crisis misinformation policy” on Thursday, May 19, saying it will put a warning label on posts about the conflict in Ukraine that fit certain criteria, limiting their ability to be seen, shared or liked.
The announcement comes just a day after the resignation of the US government’s “disinformation agency” director Nina Jankowicz, who had advocated for the ability to edit other people’s tweets.
The policy will be applied globally and guide Twitter’s efforts to “elevate credible, authoritative information,” and “help to ensure viral misinformation isn’t amplified or recommended by us during crises,” as was said by the company’s Head of Safety and Integrity Yoel Roth.
As soon as there is evidence that something posted “may be misleading,” Twitter will label it with a notice and won’t amplify or recommend it in the Home timeline, Search, and Explore tabs. Warning notices will be prioritized for “high profile accounts” such as those designated “state-affiliated media,” verified users, and official government accounts.
As examples, Roth cited “false coverage or event reporting, or information that mischaracterizes conditions on the ground as a conflict evolves,” as well as “demonstrably false or misleading allegations of war crimes or mass atrocities against specific populations”. However, “strong commentary, efforts to debunk or fact check, and personal anecdotes or first person accounts” will be exempt.
The company’s Help Center page on the policy distills the definitions even further, making clear that Twitter will go after posts that have “the capacity” to “serve as a pretext for further aggression” or “lead to increased humanitarian needs,” disrupt ceasefire talks or “incite the targeting or surveillance” of groups based on political, religious, ethnic or ideological affiliation or membership, or protected by international humanitarian law.
To be labeled, a post has to state a claim or fact “expressed in definitive terms,” be “demonstrably false or misleading, based on widely available, authoritative sources” and “be likely to impact public safety or cause serious harm.” The policy is focused on “international armed conflict” such as Ukraine, but Twitter plans to update and expand it to any crisis as defined by the UN, Roth explained.
Twitter’s new policy comes amid uncertainty over billionaire Elon Musk’s bid to buy the company and take it private. While Twitter accepted Musk’s $44 billion offer, he is now challenging their public filings, citing the number of bots and fake accounts. Musk has spoken out against censorship on Twitter and said he wanted to ensure free speech on the platform.