Twitter launches labels, warnings about misleading COVID-19 information

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Twitter Inc (TWTR.Nmessages) will add labels and warnings to some tweets with disputed or misleading information about COVID-19, the company said Monday, as part of a new approach to misinformation that will eventually spread to other topics.

Twitter’s new labels will contain links to more information in cases where the risk of damage from the tweet isn’t serious enough to be removed, but people can be confused or misled, Twitter said in a blog post.

The company said that depending on the propensity for damage and the type of misleading information in the tweet, warnings may also be added saying that the tweet violates public health experts’ guidelines before a user views it. 

Twitter said that these labels, which will look similar to the labels launched to highlight synthetic and manipulated media, will also apply to tweets sent prior to Twitter’s announcement and used regardless of who has the tweet sent.

Social media sites, including Facebook Inc (FB.O) and YouTube, Alphabet Inc’s (video serviceZweedL.O) Google, are under pressure to combat misinformation that has spread on their platforms about the COVID-19 pandemic caused by the new coronavirus.

Such false claims ranged from false healings to misinformation that linked the virus to conspiracy theories about high-profile figures such as Microsoft co-founder who became philanthropist Bill Gates or 5G cell phone technology.

Social media giant Facebook’s third-party fact-checking partners, including Reuters, are reviewing and debunking viral content on the tagged site, and last month, YouTube said it would also be displaying information panels with third-party-controlled, fact-checked articles for the US video search results.

Twitter’s labels link to a Twitter-managed page or external trusted source with additional information.

“One of the differences in our approach here is that we’re not waiting for a third party to somehow make a cast iron decision,” said Nick Pickles, Twitter’s public policy director.

“We reflect the debate rather than mentioning the outcome of a deliberation,” he added.

Twitter said it wouldn’t take action on tweets with unconfirmed information at the time of sharing, but it could put warnings or labels on disputed claims, as well as those that were confirmed to be false.

In March, Twitter banned here tweets that violate COVID-19 guidelines from public health authorities. On Monday, Twitter head of site integrity Yoel Roth said in a call to reporters that it would continue to prioritize the removal of tweets with a call to action that could potentially cause harm, such as telling people to stop social distance.

Roth said that an example of tweets the company is now considering labeling are the tweets that dispute the origin or nature of the virus.

“We will continue to introduce new labels to provide context around various types of unverified claims and rumors where appropriate,” Twitter said.

It said it would use internal systems to proactively monitor tweets related to COVID-19 and rely on “trusted partners”, such as non-governmental organizations and think tanks, to identify content that could cause harm.

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