Twitter launches labels, warnings on misleading COVID-19 information

(Reuters) – Twitter Inc (TWTR.N) will add tags and warning messages to some tweets containing controversial or misleading information about COVID-19, the company said on Monday, as part of a new approach to misinformation that will eventually extend to other topics.

The new Twitter labels will provide links to more information in cases where the risk of damage to the tweet is not serious enough to be removed, but people may be confused or induced, Twitter said in a blog post.

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The company said that depending on the propensity for damage and the type of misleading information in the tweet, warnings can also be added to say that the tweet conflicts with guidance from public health experts before the user sees it.

Twitter said that these labels, which will be similar to those launched to signal synthetic and manipulated media, will also apply to tweets sent before the Twitter announcement and will be used regardless of who sent the tweet.

Social media sites, including Facebook Inc (FB.O) and YouTube, Alphabet Inc's video service (GOOGL.O), Google is under pressure to combat the misinformation that spread on its platforms about the COVID-19 pandemic caused by the new coronavirus.

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Such false claims ranged from false cures to the misinformation that links the virus to conspiracy theories about high-profile figures, such as Microsoft co-founder philanthropist Bill Gates or 5G mobile technology.

Social media giant Facebook’s third-party fact-checking partners, which include Reuters, classify and unmask viral content on the tagged website, and last month, YouTube said it would also start displaying information panels with verified third-party articles for USA video search results.

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Twitter bookmarks will link to a page selected by Twitter or to a trusted external source that contains additional information.

"One of the differences in our approach here is that we are not expecting third parties to make a cast iron decision in one way or another," said Nick Pickles, director of public policy at Twitter.

"We are reflecting the debate, rather than declaring the result of a deliberation," he added.

Twitter said it would not take action on tweets with unconfirmed information at the time of sharing, but could place warnings or tags on disputed claims, as well as those confirmed to be false.

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In March, Twitter banned on here tweets contrary to COVID-19 guidelines from public health authorities. On Monday, Twitter's chief integrity officer, Yoel Roth, said in a call with reporters that he would continue to prioritize removing tweets with a call to action that could cause harm, such as telling people to stop social detachment.

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Roth said that an example of tweets that the company would now consider labeling would be those that contest the origin or nature of the virus.

"We will continue to introduce new labels to provide context on different types of unverified claims and rumors as needed," said Twitter.

He said he would use internal systems to proactively monitor tweets related to COVID-19 and rely on "trusted partners", such as non-governmental organizations and think tanks, to identify content that could cause harm.

Elizabeth Culliford reporting; Edition by Andrea Ricci

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