Twitter will remove ‘unverified claims that incite people to engage in harmful activity’ such as damaging 5G infrastructure.
On Wednesday (22 April), Twitter updated its Covid-19 guidance in an effort to limit the spread of misinformation on the platform, including unverified claims about 5G. It said it will now remove any tweets with misleading or unverified content that could incite people to “engage in harmful activity”.
The update comes amid concerns that attacks on telecoms infrastructure in the UK and Ireland are related to unfounded conspiracy theories linking 5G technology with the spread of coronavirus.
The damage caused to infrastructure has been condemned by the NHS in the UK, whose director described the conspiracy theories as “absolute and utter rubbish”. Scientists have also said that a link between the coronavirus and 5G is “biologically impossible”.
Twitter tweeted: “We have broadened our guidance on unverified claims that incite people to engage in harmful activity, could lead to the destruction or damage of critical 5G infrastructure or could lead to widespread panic, social unrest, or large-scale disorder.”
In its Covid-19 guidance, Twitter gave examples of the type of tweets that could be removed. This included tweets with claims such as: “The National Guard just announced that no more shipments of food will be arriving for two months – run to the grocery store ASAP and buy everything” or “5G causes coronavirus – go destroy the cell towers in your neighbourhood.”
We have broadened our guidance on unverified claims that incite people to engage in harmful activity, could lead to the destruction or damage of critical 5G infrastructure, or could lead to widespread panic, social unrest, or large-scale disorder.
— Twitter Safety (@TwitterSafety) April 22, 2020
Removing other content related to Covid-19
Speaking to TechCrunch, a Twitter spokesperson said: “We’re prioritising the removal of Covid-19 content when it has a call to action that could potentially cause harm. As we’ve said previously, we will not take enforcement action on every tweet that contains incomplete or disputed information about Covid-19.
“Since introducing these new policies on 18 March, we’ve removed more than 2,200 tweets. As we’ve doubled down on tech, our automated systems have challenged more than 3.4m accounts which were targeting discussions around Covid-19 with spammy or manipulative behaviours.”
The company has been removing tweets that include misleading or unverified content that could increase the chance of someone contracting or transmitting Covid-19. This includes denial of expert guidance, encouragement to use fake or ineffective treatments, preventions and diagnostic techniques, as well as misleading content purporting to be from experts or authorities.
On 16 March, Twitter joined Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, YouTube and Reddit in a pledge to fight coronavirus-related misinformation.