Twitter has grown so much from its early days, now recently it seems to constantly come into how water with the government along with other social media services regularly. Talks about whether important legislation such as Section 230 are still applicable to these social media giants is becoming a regular discourse. Twitter overall is a very user friendly service. Sign up is free and easy, users can choose to own one account or multiple accounts and can do anything with those accounts. Regarding user generated content, Twitter recognizes that, “ all content is the sole responsibility of the person who originated such content” and that they, “do not monitor or control the content posted on the service.” Twitter makes it clear that they do intend to make use of the Section 230 ruling to not be responsible for user content. Twitter is not a “lawless” service by any chance, in its terms of service it states that content that violates the User Agreement, “including for example , copyright or trademark violations or other intellectual property misappropriation, impersonation, unlawful conduct, or harassment” are subject to removal by Twitter. Standard rules for a giant social media platform. It is important to recognize that like any other giant social media service that the main regulating force of Twitter are the users themselves. Twitter does not generally have a team of active moderators that scour through posts searching for violations of their terms of service, they rely on users to report those violations instead. That has been the modus operandi of Twitter for a long time, but now recently with the coronavirus pandemic and the election, Twitter has been very aggressive on combatting misinformation. The laissez Faire approach toward user generated content is not applicable to those subjects.
The coronavirus is a very deadly disease and any misinformation about can lead to damaging consequences. Twitter noticing how much misinformation about the coronavirus is being spread throughout the internet decided to actively police content regarding the coronavirus. Through advance algorithms posts can be recognized to contain misinformation regarding coronavirus and are given a label indicating that the post may not have all the correct facts. These labels also promote viewers to seek out the facts. It is important to recognize that posts containing misinformation are not prevented from being posted on the platform, they can still be viewed but are flagged. This recent development is equally applied to all users even the President of the United states. Users can be banned though if they constantly spew out misinformation.
Another recent development has caused Twitter to take an active participation against misinformation the 2020 Presidential Election. This election is very unique to say the least and there is an overwhelming amount of information being pushed through about the presidential candidates that it is extremely easy for “fake news” to thrive and grow on the internet. Similarly, to Twitter’s coronavirus misinformation response, there are algorithms and teams that flag certain posts containing misinformation about the election. A prominent example being the issue of mail-in ballots which has been subject to heavy amounts of misinformation which Twitter aimed to provide users the facts about it. Posts with misinformation about the election are flagged for other users to see. Now there was a very recent incident about a week ago about an article containing allegations against Hunter Biden, Presidential candidate Joe Biden’s son. The New York Post’s Twitter account was removed from Twitter. The article itself was banned from Twitter. Posts that contained links to the article were quickly deleted and when users attempted to post the article, Twitter would not let their posts get published. Twitter actively suppressed this article from appearing on their platform. According to an article by The New York Times, Twitter would later clarify that the article and The New York Post violated content guideline that contained hacked and private information. The article and the account for The New York Post was allowed back on Twitter not long after Republican lawmakers made complaints toward Twitter. Some sources of misinformation have been banned off Twitter like right wing conspiracies such as Q-Anon have been banned from being discussed on Twitter even though it was allowed before.
Now, what Twitter has been doing lately is not a bad thing at all. There is no malicious intent at all from the actions they take even if some people feel that Twitter has a bias against conservative media. Twitter simply does not want their users to suffer the consequences from believing “fake news.” Misinformation regarding coronavirus can be life threatening, it is a public service that they are warning people that misinformation exists and to influence them to seek out the facts. There are a lot of lies out in the world and lies about coronavirus can be deadly. There is absolutely nothing wrong with what Twitter has done about that.
This election has been a wild ride since the beginning and even with less than a week left until the election misinformation is still rampant. There is misinformation about mail in ballots and voting rights, it is a constant battle. It is a battle that Twitter justifiably tries to fight against. The more educated the public is about the electoral process the better the democratic process in our country. The misinformation that is rampant in this election is not as physically harmful as coronavirus “fake news” but it is a blow against the democratic process.
Twitter wants to be a source of truth for important topics for its users, it is all to support its users from committing mistakes stemming from believing “fake news”. Some people are not happy about it, they see it as an attack on free speech, but most accept what Twitter as doing as a public good. A source of concern though is how much Twitter is susceptible to the whims of the government and that Twitter’s policies are constantly evolving and not set in stone. It is also unknown if these recent developments of content regulation on Twitter are a permanent addition or that they will go away with time. Content regulation in giant social media platforms are in a state of flux and not much can be done than just take part in the ride.
Feature Image taken from PCMag