The Digital Information War Heats Up With Twitter’s New Policy
This article is authored by Mitch Nemeth
The online effort to combat the spread of “misinformation” in the run-up to the 2020 election continues to escalate. On October 9th, Twitter announced new measures intended to curb the spread of viral election information. Axios notes that these changes will “help clamp down on misinformation leading up to the election.” Twitter’s blog outlines some specific measures including:
- Twitter users, including candidates for elected office, “may not claim an election win before it is authoritatively called.” Twitter will, instead, rely on “an announcement from state election officials, or a public projection from at least two authoritative, national news outlets that make independent election calls.”
- Tweets that “incite interference with the election process or with the implementation of election results…will be subject to removal.”
- Tweets may be labeled if they violate Twitter’s policy against “misinformation.” Labeled tweets are de-amplified and will prompt a notification that gives individuals “more context on labeled Tweets so they can make more information decisions on whether or not they want to amplify them.”
- Twitter will now “add additional warnings and restrictions on Tweets with a misleading information label from US political figures.” These Tweets will also not “be algorithmically recommended by Twitter,” resulting in reduced visibility of misleading information.
- Lastly, Twitter has expanded its “Civic Integrity Policy.” This policy more or less governs usage of Twitter’s platform to engage in conversation about civic processes. Specifically, the policy includes “posting or sharing content that may suppress participation or mislead people about when, where, or how to participate in a civic process.”
Twitter’s new updates are likely to impact conservatives, especially given Twitter’s history of enforcement; particularly, their new measures to keep users from claiming an election win before it is “authoritatively called.” Because of COVID-19, voters are utilizing mail-in-voting at record rates and it is expected that official vote counts may prolong election results. President Trump has been a vocal critic of expanded mail-in-voting and some of his criticisms have been previously flagged by social media platforms. Twitter’s new measure to de-amplify flagged or labeled tweets will undoubtedly have the effect of throttling the President’s tweets criticizing voter fraud or expanded mail-in-voting.
Of all of the social media networks, Twitter has taken the most stringent steps to protect election integrity on their platform. After a multiple years obsession around Russian bots and trolls, Twitter has now taken it upon themselves to regulate the online dissemination of election information. Some progressives have cheered these developments in hoping that these changes will predominantly harm conservatives, especially President Trump’s twitter account. An analysis by Richard Hanania, Ph.D. on Quillette concluded that it is “difficult to take claims of political neutrality [by these platforms] seriously.”
In the past year, Twitter has taken dramatic steps to clamp down on the President’s “trigger-happy” Twitter fingers. During the George Floyd protests in May, President Trump tweeted about looting and Twitter placed a warning label on his tweets. Since then, Twitter has taken numerous actions to fact-check or hide the President’s tweets. In response, the President signed an executive order intended to curb Twitter’s and other social media platforms’ immunity.
Twitter is not alone in the online effort to curb the President’s message. Anti-Trump Political Action Committee (PAC) Defeat Disinfo is utilizing “technology to track the online debate of Mr. Trump’s claims and then boost counter messages with a network of paid influencers.” According to The Washington Times, Defeat Disinfo’s three-step process includes: 1) mapping the president’s tweets 2) identifying “digital narratives” that effectively combat his agenda and 3) amplifying counternarratives “through a network of online influencers, including several who are paid.”