Instead of deleting such controversial tweets, Twitter is showing a message on them that reads: “Get the facts on COVID-19.” If clicked on, users are taken to a page titled “No 5G isn’t causing coronavirus,” which is linked to other credible websites and official sources.
Twitter promised that it would start fact-checking coronavirus misinformation earlier in May.
“We’re prioritizing the removal of COVID-19 content when it has a call to action that could potentially cause harm,” a Twitter spokesperson said in a statement.
“As we’ve said previously, we will not take enforcement action on every tweet that contains incomplete or disputed information about COVID-19.”
In recent months, tech giants like Twitter, Apple and Facebook have been accused of enabling the spread of bogus claims that link 5G to COVID-19. One of the more prevalent conspiracy theories is that 5G damages the immune system and that this has helped foster the quick spread of the virus.
The World Health Organization (WHO) and other medical experts have widely debunked such theories.
The WHO even added this claim to its coronavirus “Myth busters” webpage, saying: “Viruses cannot travel on radio waves/mobile networks. COVID-19 is spreading in many countries that do not have 5G mobile networks. COVID-19 is spread through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes or speaks. People can also be infected by touching a contaminated surface and then their eyes, mouth or nose.”
The conspiracy theory has taken such a hold that people have torched dozens of cell towers in the U.K. in protest. Moreover, telecom engineers often have been targets of harassment and even physical assault.
In recent weeks, Twitter has taken a more aggressive stance on fact-checking questionable tweets. Most notably, the company riled President Donald Trump when it added fact-check labels to two tweets that made false assertions about mail-in voting.
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.