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Twitter introduces new speech strikes system, will ban accounts that repeatedly post “misinformation”

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Twitter has announced a new strikes system where accounts that repeatedly post what it deems to be COVID-19 “misinformation” will be permanently banned from the site.

Under the new system, users that tweet what Twitter deems to be a “high-severity” violation of its COVID-19 misleading information policy will be temporarily locked out of their accounts, forced to delete the tweets, and given two strikes.

Users that tweet rule-breaking content that isn’t deemed to be a high severity violation of the policy will have their tweets labeled and will be given a strike if the labeled tweet is “determined to be harmful.” Labeled tweets may also have their visibility reduced, have their engagement metrics disabled, display a warning when people attempt to share or like the tweet, and contain a link to a curated landing page or Twitter’s policies.

Accounts that have multiple strikes will be subject to the following sanctions:

  • Two or three strikes: 12-hour account lock
  • Four strikes: 7-day account lock
  • Five or more strikes: Permanent suspension

Twitter added that it will also permanently suspend accounts that it deems to be “dedicated to Tweeting or promoting a particular misleading narrative (or set of narratives) about COVID-19.”

The scope of what Twitter considers to be misleading information about COVID-19 under this policy is vast. Any definitive claim of fact that Twitter deems to be “demonstrably false or misleading, based on widely available, authoritative sources” and “likely to impact public safety or cause serious harm” can be labeled or removed.

Some of the specific examples of the topics that Twitter will label or remove under this policy include “false or misleading” tweets about:

  • Adverse impacts or effects of receiving vaccinations, where these claims have been widely debunked
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE) such as claims about the efficacy and safety of face masks to reduce viral spread
  • Preventative measures such as hand-washing, proper hygiene or sanitation methods, or social distancing
  • Local or national advisories or mandates pertaining to curfews, lockdowns, travel restrictions, quarantine protocols, inoculations, including exemptions from such advisories or mandates
  • How vaccines are developed, tested, and approved by official health agencies as well as information about government recommendations
  • The prevalence of the virus or the disease, such as information pertaining to test results, hospitalizations, or mortality rates
  • Research findings (such as misrepresentations of or unsubstantiated conclusions about statistical data) used to advance a specific narrative that diminishes the significance of the disease

Twitter added that high-severity violations of the policy include tweets that contain “misleading information” about “the nature or treatment of the COVID-19 virus” or misleading information about the “pandemic or COVID-19 vaccines that invoke a deliberate conspiracy by malicious and/or powerful forces.”

When it comes to enforcement, Twitter wrote that the labels will initially be applied by its employees but that this will then inform its automated tools and advance its “proactive capacity to identify and label similar content across the service.” Eventually, the company plans to use a combination of human review and automated systems to remove content that violates its COVID-19 misinformation rules.

The introduction of this strikes system follows Twitter recently rolling out a similar strikes system for accounts that repeatedly violate its “Civic Integrity” policy.

Not only is Twitter introducing new penalties for accounts that post what it deems to be COVID-19 misinformation but it’s also going to be boosting so-called “credible information” via search prompts, free advertising for groups that provide “authoritative information on COVID-19,” and emoji hashtags that show support for vaccination.

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