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Twitter Announces New Censorship Tools

Twitter says it’s rolling out a new “crisis misinformation” policy that is intended to target false information during an international armed conflict or other crisis events.

“To determine whether claims are misleading, we require verification from multiple credible, publicly available sources, including evidence from conflict monitoring groups, humanitarian organizations, open-source investigators, journalists, and more,” the social media company stated in a post on May 19.

False material spread quickly on Twitter and other social networks during the early part of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, including information that was spread via official Ukrainian and Russian accounts. Misleading information and hoaxes also often spread during emergencies, including weather disasters, as users rush to share information that hasn’t been verified.

“Alongside our existing work to make reliable information more accessible during crisis events, this new approach will help to slow the spread by us of the most visible, misleading content, particularly that which could lead to severe harms,” the firm stated in a blog post.

The policy will first tackle information relating to the conflict in Ukraine, and will be expanded to other emergencies, according to the company.

“While this first iteration is focused on international armed conflict, starting with the war in Ukraine, we plan to update and expand the policy to include additional forms of crisis. The policy will supplement our existing work deployed during other global crises, such as in Afghanistan, Ethiopia, and India,” according to the post.

The new warning notices will alert users that a tweet has violated Twitter’s rules, while still allowing people to view and comment. The platform won’t amplify or recommend such tweets and retweeting will also be disabled, and the company will prioritize adding labels to misleading tweets from high-profile accounts such as verified users or official government profiles. It also will prioritize content that could cause harm to people.

The update comes at a critical time for the social media firm, as Twitter’s board last month approved Elon Musk’s $44 billion bid to take the company private. Musk said that he would scale back some of the company’s content moderation policies, suggesting that they imperil free speech.

But in recent days, the deal has hit a snag as the Tesla CEO said he wants the company to provide more information about automated and bot (fake) accounts.

“How do advertisers know what they’re getting for their money?” Musk asked this week, in reference to an uncertain number of bots running Twitter accounts. “This is fundamental to the financial health of Twitter.”

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