The policy has been developed in response to the invasion of Ukraine, with Twitter now looking to enshrine its Ukraine policies in its official guidelines.
As explained by Twitter:
“Around the world, people use Twitter to find reliable information in real time. During periods of crisis – such as situations of armed conflict, public health emergencies, and large-scale natural disasters – access to credible, authoritative information and resources is all the more critical.”
In these circumstances, Twitter will now work faster to hide potentially harmful claims behind a warning screen, while such claims also won’t be amplified in the Home timeline, Search, and/or Explore.
As you can see here, users will be required to click through the warning notice to view these tweets, while Likes, Retweets, and Shares will be disabled.
Expanding on this, Twitter says that it will also prioritize adding warning notices to highly visible Tweets and Tweets from high profile accounts, ‘such as state-affiliated media accounts, verified, official government accounts.’ The new policy will only relate to situations in which there is a /widespread threat to life, physical safety, health, or basic subsistence’.
So how will Twitter determine what’s true or false in rapid time?
Twitter says that it will verify information via credible, publicly available sources, ‘including evidence from conflict monitoring groups, humanitarian organizations, open-source investigators, journalists, and more’.
Sure, that should appease the free speech advocates who already feel that social platforms base their decisions on political agendas. Wonder what Elon thinks of this?
In principle, of course, Twitter’s policy makes perfect sense – harmful misinformation and propaganda can have damaging impacts, in many ways, and it shouldn’t allow such to be amplified via its app. That’s ramped up even further in times of crisis.
In conflicts of the past, military opponents have resorted to air drops of flyers to break the spirit of their opponents. Tweets, and social media posts in general, can serve the same purpose, which is why it’s important for Twitter to act.
But further moves to restrict speech, of any kind, will undoubtedly be met with criticism.
Twitter says that, under this new policy, it will add warning notices to
- False coverage or event reporting, or information that mischaracterizes conditions on the ground as a conflict evolves
- False allegations regarding use of force, incursions on territorial sovereignty, or around the use of weapons
- Demonstrably false or misleading allegations of war crimes or mass atrocities against specific populations
- False information regarding international community response, sanctions, defensive actions, or humanitarian operations
It could be a difficult policy to enforce, depending on the conflict and region, so while it is a good update, and again, one that makes sense, it may be perceived as biased by those restricted as a result.
And it does seem that it could, at some stage, backfire, with correct information hidden due to the platform’s rapid action – but then again, that may be worth the risk if it ends up saving lives in the majority.
But you do have to wonder what incoming CEO and owner Elon Musk thinks of such. Musk has been a vocal advocate of free speech, and this seems to be skirting the line of what Musk may see as overstepping. We’ll find out once the deal goes through.
Twitter says that this first iteration of its updated policy is focused on international armed conflict, starting with the war in Ukraine, but it will eventually be expanded 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.”
Again, it’ll be interesting to see what Musk thinks, and whether this policy is fully enacted in the Elon era for the app.