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Twitter will label COVID-19 vaccine misinformation and enforce a strike system

Twitter will label COVID-19 vaccine misinformation and enforce a strike system


Repeatedly sharing misleading information can lead to your account being locked

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Twitter announced Monday that it will start labeling tweets that share misleading information about COVID-19 vaccines. The labels will include links to relevant information from official bodies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Twitter plans to enforce a five-strike system for repeat offenders that can lead to locked accounts and permanent suspension.

The new labels are similar to Facebook’s anti-misinformation banners or the labels Twitter began deploying early in the pandemic. They appear as text underneath misleading tweets, with links to information from official sources or Twitter’s rules. Twitter plans to eventually use a combination of automated tools and human moderators, but for now its human team will label tweets while it trains its system. The label rollout will start with with English-language content first.

An example of a labeled tweet.
An example of a labeled tweet.
Image: Twitter

Twitter has specific criteria for labeling in its COVID-19 misleading information policy, but generally, the company targets five categories of false or misleading information:

  • Misinformation about the nature of the virus
  • Misinformation about the efficacy of treatments and preventive measures
  • Misinformation about regulations, restrictions, and exemptions in association with health advisories
  • Misinformation about the prevalence of the virus and the risk of infection or death
  • Misleading affiliations (for example, claiming to be a doctor or public health official)

Labels also feed into the new strike system for COVID-19 misinformation. A harmful, labeled tweet counts as one strike. If Twitter determines the misinformation is particularly dangerous in its questioning of COVID-19 treatments and invokes a larger conspiracy connected to the virus (like the idea that vaccines include microchips for tracking people), the company may also delete the tweet, which counts as two strikes. From there, account-level strikes accrue, triggering different actions from Twitter.

Appending labels has been part of the larger strategy to fight misinformation Twitter used during the 2020 election, adding labels to tweets from politicians — including the former president — when they included inaccurate information. While the labels seem helpful, they don’t necessarily deter people from sharing the information. Holding real punishment like a suspension until there have been five bad tweets also means that misinformation could spread with only some text as a warning.

You can see Twitter’s various punishments for the different number of strikes below:

  • 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

Correction: A previous version of this article said Twitter was already using automated moderation tools. That’s incorrect, moderation is handled by humans. We regret the error.