Twitter Ends Enforcement of Policy on COVID Misinformation

    30 November 2022

    Twitter says it is no longer enforcing a policy that aimed to limit misinformation about COVID-19.

    The move is the latest major change at Twitter since American businessman Elon Musk took ownership of the social media service in October.

    A short statement announcing the change was added to an official Twitter page that explained the company's efforts to provide factual information about COVID-19.

    A sign at Twitter headquarters is shown in San Francisco, Friday, Nov. 18, 2022. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
    A sign at Twitter headquarters is shown in San Francisco, Friday, Nov. 18, 2022. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

    "Effective November 23, 2022, Twitter is no longer enforcing the COVID-19 misleading information policy," the statement said. The statement did not provide additional details on exact enforcement measures that would change.

    During the pandemic, Twitter established several measures aimed at helping users learn more about COVID-19. It also launched efforts to prevent misleading information from appearing on the service. The efforts included banning some users who repeatedly published material on COVID-19 identified as misinformation.

    Other social media services established similar measures. They included Facebook parent Meta and Alphabet-owned YouTube.

    Twitter's announced policy change was praised by some people and criticized by others.

    Some public health officials warned the change could bring more false claims about COVID-19. They said it could lead to increased material claiming vaccines to fight the virus are ineffective or unsafe.

    "Bad news," tweeted public health scientist Eric Feigl-Ding, about the latest change at Twitter under Musk. However, Feigl-Ding urged people not to flee Twitter. "Stay folks — do NOT cede the town square to them!" he tweeted.

    Musk has described himself as a "free speech absolutist" who is seeking to make Twitter available to people with widely different opinions. He has described earlier Twitter rules that sought to limit misinformation and hate speech as forms of censorship.

    Soon after the new announcement, some Twitter users tested the new lack of enforcement and celebrated the service's latest "hands-off" rule.

    Simone Gold is a doctor who created and leads the organization America's Frontline Doctors. Gold and her group have criticized Twitter and other social media companies.

    Gold tweeted, "This policy was used to silence people across the world who questioned the media narrative surrounding the virus and treatment options." She declared Twitter's latest announcement "a win for free speech and medical freedom."

    Paul Russo is a social media researcher and administrator at the Katz School of Science and Health at Yeshiva University in New York. He told The Associated Press that Twitter's past efforts to stop false claims about COVID-19 were not perfect. However, he said the company's decision to end enforcement of its current misinformation policy represents a disservice to Twitter users.

    "It is 100 percent the responsibility of the platform to protect its users from harmful content," Russo said.

    Russo added that the decision is the latest in a series of moves that will likely lead more users and advertisers to leave Twitter. Several big businesses have stopped advertising on Twitter over questions about its direction under Musk.

    Yoel Roth is the former head of trust and safety at Twitter who left after Musk took over. When asked about Twitter's latest move, Roth said he was concerned about how many employees were left to moderate published material. Musk reportedly dismissed half of Twitter's employees shortly after taking over.

    Roth said it is difficult to know how many moderators are currently working at Twitter to identify and remove material that violates company policies. "I couldn't tell you," he said when asked to offer an estimate. Roth added that part of the problem was that a company-wide listing of employees was turned off immediately after Musk's takeover. "It was that chaotic," he said.

    I'm Bryan Lynn.

    The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse reported on this story. Bryan Lynn adapted the reports for VOA Learning English.


    Words in This Story

    cede – v. to give something up to someone else

    absolutist – adj. a person who holds absolute principles in political or other matters

    censorship – n. the system or practice of censoring books, movies, letters, etc.

    option – n. a choice

    disservice – n. a situation in which something causes harm to someone or something

    platform – n. a company or service that permits someone to tell a large number of people about ideas or products

    moderate – v. to make sure the rules of an internet discussion are not broken

    chaotic – adj. in a state of chaos: a situation where there is no order at all and everyone is confused