Social media firms were heavily criticized, during the 2016 election, of failing to do enough to stop the spread of false news, including some campaigns that were directed by from overseas by state-sponsored efforts.
Facebook and Twitter, especially, have made moves to avoid that mistake, including Facebook’s recent crackdown on QAnon, and both platforms’ moves to block or remove posts that spread coronavirus-related misinformation. Twitter even recently rolled out a prompt encouraging users to read entire stories, rather than share them on the strength of their headline, and cracked down on “copypasta.”
Twitter this year has removed tweets from President Trump, something it had always resisted doing in the past. When the president was hospitalized last week, it was widely reported that Twitter would remove any posts that openly wished for Trump’s death, although the company later clarified that “tweets that wish or hope for death, serious bodily harm or fatal disease against *anyone* are not allowed and will need to be removed.”
With Election Day less than a month away, Twitter has announced some additional moves to prevent abuse of its platform.
Twitter said Friday that they will “not allow anyone to use Twitter to manipulate or interfere in elections or other civic processes.”
These steps will include removing any tweets, from candidates or anyone else, that “claim an election win before it is authoritatively called.” This means that such declarations will not be allowed until such a win has been declared by state election officials, or by “at least two authoritative, national news outlets that make independent election calls.” Such calls are made on election nights by the Associated Press, as well as the decision desks of television news networks and other media outlets.
Twitter will also remove posts that “encourage violence or call for people to interfere with election results or the smooth operation of polling places.” The rules, including one that bars interference with the election process, will apply to elections for Congress, in additional to the presidential race.
The company also said that starting later this month, users will be prompted with the note “this is disputed” when they attempt to retweet tweets that have been flagged by Twitter for being misleading. And Twitter will soon begin encouraging users to quote tweet rather than retweet others’ messages.
“Twitter plays a critical role around the globe by empowering democratic conversation, driving civic participation, facilitating meaningful political debate, and enabling people to hold those in power accountable,” Kayvon Beykpour, Twitter’s product lead, wrote in a blog post published Friday. “But we know that this cannot be achieved unless the integrity of this critical dialogue on Twitter is protected from attempts—both foreign and domestic—to undermine it.”
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.