Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Unmasking Twitter


Broadening our definition of harm to address content that goes directly against guidance from authoritative sources of global and local public health information. Rather than reports, we will enforce this in close coordination with trusted partners, including public health authorities and governments, and continue to use and consult with information from those sources when reviewing content. Under this new guidance, we will require people to remove tweets that include[…]


Description of harmful treatments or protection measures which are known to be ineffective, do not apply to COVID-19, or are being shared out of context to mislead people, even if made in jest, such as “drinking bleach and ingesting colloidal silver will cure COVID-19.”

This is quite a statement and a difficult situation for Twitter to be in. Obviously, there is a lot of misinformation out there, and they don’t want Twitter to be overrun with it. But some information from health and government sources has turned out to be incorrect, and different authoritative sources don’t always agree with one another. Some potential treatments are approved in certain jurisdictions but banned in others. Knowledge is evolving by the day, but nothing is going to be truly verified scientifically until after this is all over.

Ben Thompson:

Everyone is taking their guidance from the WHO, and that’s a problem. […] It seems likely this paragraph about the lack of asymptomatic transmission was strongly argued for by China.


And yet, Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus argued — on Twitter! — that asymptomatic carriers were not a concern[…]

Again, an increasing amount of evidence is that this just isn’t true: asymptomatic carriers are a major problem.


It sure seems like multiple health authorities — the experts Twitter is going to rely on — have told us that masks “are known to be ineffective”: is Twitter going to delete the many, many, many tweets — some of which informed this article — arguing the opposite?

The answer, obviously, is that Twitter won’t, because this is another example of where Twitter has been a welcome antidote to “experts”; what is striking, though, is how explicitly this shows that Twitter’s policy is a bad idea, not just because it allows countries like China to indirectly influence its editorial decisions, but also because it limits the search for truth.


Update (2020-04-08): Mike Rockwell:

Unfortunately, this is the path that we have to take. If only because advertisers will demand it — they don’t want to see their brand promoted next to anything they consider to be misleading, incorrect, dangerous, or objectionable. But hopefully we’ll all eventually move away from these platforms, before things get too bad, toward a more open web where each of us share our ideas on our own domains.

Update (2020-04-23): Donie O’Sullivan (via Hacker News):

Facebook says it has removed promotion of anti-quarantine events in California, New Jersey, and Nebraska after consultation with state governments

See also: Slashdot.

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