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March 20, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – Twitter is among the major internet companies that have stepped up to play an active role in countering “misinformation” about the risks of and response to the coronavirus, although critics fear the measures it has announced could do more harm than good.
This week, the social media platform announced that it’s taking a “wide range of actions on potentially abusive and manipulative content” related to the subject, and to that end it is broadening his definition of “harmful” content.
Content that may be removed includes “denial of global or local health authority recommendations” (such as discouraging people from engaging in “social distancing”); descriptions of “ineffective” treatment or prevention methods, “even if made in jest”; “denial of established scientific facts” from “global and local health authorities”; urging people to go out to local businesses in defiance of government mandates; statements such as “ignore news about COVID-19, it’s just an attempt to destroy capitalism by crashing the stock market”; “unverified” claims that could “incite people to action and cause widespread panic”; impersonation of official government bodies, including parody accounts; and more.
While some of these rules are fairly straightforward, the language about humorous content can be seen as overreach, particularly if it affects obvious satire or jokes that, while potentially in poor taste, are obviously not meant to be taken as real information.
Twitter’s language also could potentially cross the line from halting the spread of misinformation into stifling legitimate debate about the wisdom of government’s response as well as the true threat of the virus, a relatively new and evolving situation on which the experts themselves are not of one mind.
Per “social distancing” recommendations, Twitter is taking on this task with reduced manpower, meaning it will be increasing its reliance on “machine learning and automation” to monitor and remove objectionable content. The company acknowledges that artificial systems “can sometimes lack the context that our teams bring, and this may result in us making mistakes,” so it will not be suspending any of the accounts whose content is removed by these systems.
Twitter is part of a joint effort by tech giants including Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Microsoft, and Reddit to fight “fraud and misinformation about the virus” while “elevating authoritative content on our platforms, and sharing critical updates in coordination with government healthcare agencies around the world.”
Google’s own efforts in that regard have already produced some hiccups, such as inadvertently blocking legitimate news apps and even the U.S. Centers for Disease Control from appearing in certain searches on the Google Play store.