The COVID-19 pandemic has been a hellscape to navigate for everyone. Social media platform developers, however, were faced with an entirely unique problem to toss into the overflowing bucket of issues 2020 brought. Specifically, the inane propagation of misinformation and conspiracies online. It started off rather quickly with people refusing to wear masks and making their opinions heard online. This, however, kept on accelerating as certain communities started to pin the brunt of the coronavirus pandemic’s blame on everything except for, well, the coronavirus. Be it 5G towers, or Bill Gates, certain individuals were more accepting of a worldwide conspiracy than they were willing to stay home and wear a mask outside. Accordingly, allow this author a moment of pause as they contemplate the world we live in.
The recent onslaught of shaking sticks seems to be directed at the recently developed COVID-19 vaccines, which have started to ship out in certain countries. This, naturally, proves to be a much bigger behemoth in comparison to other forms of misinformation. COVID-19 conspiracy theorists have only had a year to hone their craft, while the notorious Anti Vaccination Movement has had centuries of practice to prepare them for this. Naturally, social media platforms have already started to take precautions. Facebook has started banning anti-vaxxer groups, flagging posts for removal, and the issuing of warnings for people who have come into contact with such posts. And now, Twitter is rolling up its sleeves and following suit.
The social media company’s blog has recently detailed the measures being planned to tackle online misinformation and hysteria. Their current policy, carried over from the early days of the pandemic, already enforces the removal of misleading and factually incorrect tweets pertaining to the pandemic. Additions to these regulations will now ensure that this very protection is now provided to all conversations regarding the vaccines online. In other news, information that is unsubstantiated, incomplete or out of context, and scientifically dubious will receive attached warnings visible to all users across the platform. The warnings will be accompanied by links leading to certified landing pages with accurate and up to date information. These tweets may also be further limited in their reach and engagement, in an effort to freeze such harmful discourse in its tracks.
All of these updates are swinging by rather soon, as the vaccines have already started circulation in some countries. The regulations additions will be enacted from December 21st of this year, with the accompanying warnings and such starting in early 2021.
This post was written by Arooj Ahmed and was first posted to Digital Information World
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