Twitter’s long-running effort to combat COVID-19 misinformation is over, at least for now. As Twitter users and CNN realized, the social media company quietly updated The transparency site reveals that on November 23, it stopped enforcing its COVID misinformation policy. It’s unclear whether the company will restore accounts banned for sharing misinformation as part of the amnesty planned by Elon Musk, but this suggests the company won’t suspend any more users or delete content containing misinformation about coronavirus or vaccines.
Twitter began taking action against COVID-19 misinformation in January 2020 as the disease began to spread worldwide. The social network has since banned more than 11,200 accounts, collected more than 97,600 instances of false content, and “challenged” 11.7 million accounts through efforts such as warning tags. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy even pointed to the company’s policy as an example of how other tech platforms can combat false medical claims.
The company has effectively disbanded its communications team and is unavailable for comment. However, Musk has routinely voiced his opposition to bans and certain COVID-19 security measures. Tesla defied early pandemic lockdowns by keeping factories open despite safeguarding orders in place. Musk also insisted during an April 2020 earnings call that these lockdowns were “forcibly imprisoning people,” and threatened to move Tesla’s headquarters from California to Texas in response. While the entrepreneur supports vaccination, he opposes buffaloes and voices his support for the anti-buffalo occupiers who have shut down Ottawa, Canada’s capital, for weeks.
The news comes amid reports that Twitter has downsized other teams dedicated to catching toxic behavior. Bloomberg Sources claim that as part of Musk’s sweeping layoffs, he gutted the team dedicated to fighting child sexual abuse material (CSAM) and cut the number of experts from around 20 to less than 10. now “overwhelmed” despite Musk allegation that tackling child abuse is “Priority #1”. This could put Twitter in legal jeopardy because CSAM is often required to be removed by law – the UK’s Online Safety Act allows regulators to fine companies if they don’t act quickly to pull off offensive content.
The outages may also have limited Twitter’s ability to fend off bots and other fake accounts. After Musk fired Twitter’s anti-propaganda team, for example, the tech giant has struggled to curb spam that hides news of Chinese protests.
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