United Kingdom

Twitter launches strike system and labels for vaccine misinformation

Twitter has launched a new 'strike' system for users who post tweets containing misinformation about Covid-19, including vaccines. 

The strike policy will punish repeat offenders with temporary suspensions, which could lead to permanent suspension from the platform after five strikes. 

The social network is also expanding its use of warning labels to tweets that may contain misleading information about the Covid-19 vaccines. 

Offending tweets will appear with the message: 'This tweet may be misleading. Find out why health officials consider Covid-19 vaccines safe for most people.' 

Labels providing additional context are already attached to tweets with disputed information about the pandemic, but this is the first time the firm has focused on posts about vaccines specifically. 

The move is designed to strengthen the social network's stance anti-vax posts as Covid-19 vaccines – which are crucial for bringing an end to lockdown measures – are being rolled out

Twitter also announced it has removed more than 8,400 tweets and challenged 11.5 million accounts worldwide due to Covid-19 misinformation so far. 

TWITTER'S FIVE-STRIKE SYSTEM 

- One strike: no account-level action

- Two strikes: 12-hour account lock

- Three strikes: 12-hour account lock

- Four strikes: 7-day account lock

- Five or more strikes: permanent suspension

'Starting today, we will begin applying labels to tweets that may contain misleading information about Covid-19 vaccines, in addition to our continued efforts to remove the most harmful Covid-19 misleading information from the service,' the firm said in a blog post dated Monday. 

'We are also introducing a strike system that determines when further enforcement action is necessary. 

'We believe the strike system will help to educate the public on our policies and further reduce the spread of potentially harmful and misleading information on Twitter, particularly for repeated moderate and high-severity violations of our rules.'

Labels will first be applied by human staff when they determine content violates the firm's Covid-19 misleading information policy. 

This will help build 'automated tools' to advance Twitter's ability to identify and label similar content across the service.

Twitter is feeling its responsibility to combat misinformation during the distribution of Covid-19 vaccines, which are crucial to getting the UK out of lockdown 

The firm's goal is to eventually use both automated tech and humans to address content that violates Covid-19 vaccine misinformation rules.  

The company is starting with English-language content and will work to expand to other languages and 'cultural contexts' over time. 

Labels may link to curated content and official public health information or the Twitter rules. 

Twitter said the strike system comes into play in instances where accounts repeatedly violate its Covid-19 misleading information policy.   

Users will face no additional action other than a warning on their first strike.

Two strikes will lead to a 12-hour account lock, while the third strike will lead to another 12 hour account lock.

A seven-day account lock will be imposed after four strikes, followed by a permanent suspension for five strikes or more.

'Through the use of the strike system, we hope to educate people on why certain content breaks our rules so they have the opportunity to further consider their behaviour and their impact on the public conversation,' the firm said.     

Last December, Twitter said it would soon begin to label Tweets that contain potentially misleading information about the vaccines. 

This policy covers false claims suggesting immunisations and vaccines are used to intentionally cause harm or control populations and that the disease 'is not real or not serious, and therefore that vaccinations are unnecessary'. 

Twitter's Covid-19 misleading information policy covers many more bizarre examples of misinformation including 'claims that specific groups or people are more or less prone to be infected or to develop adverse symptoms on the basis of their nationality or religion'.

It also covers people who  create fake accounts that imitate public health officials or agencies and research institutions. 

Twitter's new updates come amid ongoing concern about the spread of anti-vaccination material on social media.

Wild and untrue claims made about vaccines online include the claim that they have been created by Microsoft founder Bill Gates to inject microchips into people, and that coronavirus has been made up as part of a ‘plot to enforce vaccination’.  

Fewer than one in 10 bogus social media posts on coronavirus promoting quack cures, anti-vaccination propaganda and 5G conspiracies are removed by web giants, study shows 

Center for Countering Digital Hate previously published a five-point plan for people faced with misinformation online  

Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are all continuously hosting coronavirus misinformation, according to the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), a UK non-profit organisation. 

Bogus posts relating to false Covid-19 cures, anti-vaccination propaganda and 5G conspiracies are still being left online, despite being reported to the web giants, it claims. 

After reporting 649 posts that were thought to contravene the tech platforms' own standards, fewer than one in 10 were met with 'meaningful action', the organisation said. 

In its strongly-worded report, CCDH said 'lies cost lives' during the pandemic and that misinformation has 'followed the virus like a lethal secondary infection'. 

Despite claims of using algorithms and automated detection, social media companies fail to act even when they're handed clear cases of misinformation, it added. 

If social media companies fail to act on misinformation, politicians should 'hold them to account by imposing financial sanctions for the costs to the NHS, fire service, police and all of society that misinformation causes', it claims.    

The misinformation flagged up by the volunteers – hailing from the UK, Ireland and Romania – included examples of conspiracy theories being promoted about 5G mobile technology masts causing Covid-19, which has no basis in scientific fact. 

Others were spreading false cures, including suggestions that sufferers can get rid of coronavirus by drinking aspirin dissolved in hot water with honey or by taking zinc and vitamin C and D supplements.

The study also uncovered posts suggesting that wearing a face mask can cause cancer, while some social media users pushed anti-vaccination propaganda related to coronavirus – such as the claim that Covid-19 is a 'false flag' in order to force compulsory vaccinations. 

Read more:  Social media firms 'failing to act' on 90 per cent of misinformation             

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