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Twitter wants users to report “misleading election tweets” – what could go wrong?

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Some basic usability-enhancing options are still missing from Twitter – such as editing posts for spelling mistakes – but others, that users may not have thought are needed, are coming their way.

TechCrunch says that the social media platform will now allow users to report “misleading election tweets” to the Twitter gods to cast judgement. This sounds like a vague concept that might easily be abused by just about anyone wanting to report a political message they disagree with – in their view, “misleading.”

However, Twitter users in India, and in the European Union – ahead of the latter’s highly anticipated May elections for the European Parliament (EP) – will be able to make reports specifically singling out any tweet they deem to be spreading disinformation about such things as “location of polling stations” and “identity requirements” for voter eligibility.

Users in other countries around the world may soon be able to take advantage of the same option, though it is unclear where, or when, it may land first.

The prominent inclusion of this in Twitter’s “report” menu means either that the platform has in the past been heavily abused to direct masses of voters to the wrong polling station – or that the company is acting “preemptively” in the face of growing pressure for it, and other major social media players, to self-regulate, or face outside regulation of their practices and content.

“Our teams have been trained and we recently enhanced our appeals process in the event that we make the wrong call,” Twitter representatives said, according to the article.

TechCrunch observes that the move comes in the context of EU’s “voluntary Code of Practice on disinformation” by which tech giants agreed to employ steps not explicitly asked of them, in order to deprive “disinformation agents” of ad revenues and also make political advertising “more transparent.”

The report believes that this particular provision in the “code” – to “empower consumers to report disinformation and access different news sources, while improving the visibility and findability of authoritative content” – has prompted Twitter to introduce the new “misleading about voting” option.

The European Commission, EU’s executive branch, has been issuing regular reports on the progress made by the likes of Twitter, Google, and Facebook as they work to fulfill their voluntarily undertaken self-regulating tasks. The latest report noted some progress, adding, however, that the overall result was still “not enough.”

And if the results are not satisfactory even a year into the voluntary code’s existence – by the end of 2019 – the EC will decide whether to take action.

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