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Twitter considers labelling lies in politicians’ tweets

Image credit: Dreamstime

Twitter has been experimenting with labelling misleading content posted by public figures under a community moderation system, similar to Wikipedia’s moderation system.

Mock-ups acquired by NBC News show tweets tagged with tweet-sized orange labels stating they are “harmfully misleading”. Tweets from other users debunking their claims are attached below the original tweet.

Tweets from Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (alleging that intelligence services deliberately lowered the bar for whistleblowers’ claims), Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders (relating to outdated statistics on background checks for arms sales), and a tweet containing disinformation about the origins of the novel virus covid-19 were used as examples by Twitter in the mock-up.

Twitter labels misleading tweets

Twitter via NBC News

Image credit: Twitter

Under this system, claims are likely to be assessed by journalists, professional fact-checkers, and other trusted users participating in a points-based community moderation system like that used by Wikipedia. Under these systems, members who make the most helpful, accurate contributions are most trusted to judge what content may be misleading.

A Twitter spokesperson told reporters the leaked mock-ups represent one possible approach in the early research stage, adding: “We’re exploring a number of ways to address misinformation and provide more context for tweets on Twitter. This is a design mock-up for one option that would involve community feedback. Misinformation is a critical issue and we will be testing many different ways to address it.”

They added that there was no timeline for the introduction of these labels.

With the US presidential election just months away, social media platforms are finalising their approaches to combatting viral deception (including fake news and deepfakes) and other inappropriate or invasive means of gaining an edge over opponents. In November 2019, Google banned microtargeting of political adverts and Twitter banned almost all political advertising.

Facebook, meanwhile, has upheld the right of politicians to include lies in lucrative adverts, such as unfounded claims made by the Trump campaign about Democratic hopeful Joe Biden and his family. In an appearance before Congress last year, CEO Mark Zuckerberg defended this policy as a matter of free expression. The social media giant has, however, introduced some transparency features since the 2016 presidential election, such as labelling of some disinformation by independent fact-checkers and establishment of a “ad library”: a publicly accessible, searchable database of all Facebook advertising.

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