Twitter has dropped its covid-19 misleading information policy that used to prohibit users from spreading misinformation about the virus. Over 11,000 Twitter users were banned under the platform’s previous policy, and nearly 100,000 posts involving content that included covid misinformation was removed between January 2022 and September according to information published by Twitter, CNN reported.
The social media company’s new CEO, Elon Musk, has been reinstating some accounts that were either suspended or banned for various policy infractions. Including recently letting Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene have her personal account back after losing it for posting covid misinformation. Taylor Greene addressed the situation from her official representative account, writing: ‘On January 2, 2022, they violated my freedom of speech and ability to campaign & fundraise crying “covid misinformation.’ My account is back. Go follow @mtgreenee for MTG unfiltered.”
Twitter did not announce the policy change, but users noticed it had lifted the covid-19 policy on Monday night citing a note added on its website. “Effective November 23, 2022, Twitter is no longer enforcing the COVID-19 misleading information policy,” the note read.
The update appeared below a line that still reads: “As the global community faces the COVID-19 pandemic together, Twitter is helping people find reliable information, connect with others, and follow what’s happening in real-time.”
Twitter did not immediately respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment, as it seems to no longer have a communications department.
Twitter first instated its covid-19 policy in April 2020 to help people access reputable information and incorporated a strike policy. A first-time offender would receive one strike and no action would be taken against their account, however, accounts with two and three strikes would be locked for 12 hours, four strikes would result in a 7-day lock, and those with five or more strikes would have their account permanently suspended.
Musk himself had toed the line in the early days of the pandemic, writing in a Twitter post that covid-19 was “dumb” and suggested children could not contract the virus. This was proven to be false.
He wrote in a tweet in March 2020, “Kids are essentially immune, but elderly with existing conditions are vulnerable. Family gatherings with close contact between kids & grandparents probably most risky.” Twitter ruled that Musk had not broken its covid-19 rules and allowed his account to remain on its platform.
The covid-19 policy change comes after Musk laid off nearly half of the company’s staff earlier this month, significantly reducing Twitter’s content moderation department.
It seems Musk’s turning to everyday Twitter users to do the bulk of content moderation. Twitter recently updated its Community Notes feature (formerly known as Birdwatch). It’s a crowd-sourced fact-checking system where users can vote on whether a note is useful or expand on whether context is needed or something that’s posted is misleading. The update brings in “scoring,” which gives users the ability to vote on the quality of the note. An algorithm change was also announced in an effort to identify posts and users who frequently contribute to “low quality” notes.