Social networking is controversial in modern U.S. history, facing uncertainty and potentially high risks in preparing for elections, and Twitter’s way of working will change dramatically. Twitter announced a series of temporary changes on Friday to prevent the platform’s content from being misused before and after the November 3 U.S. presidential election, including early claims that victory tweets would be flagged and tweets intended to incite election or election results to be deleted.
So far, tweets from politicians with more than 100,000 followers, including President Trump, have been labeled “misleading” and will be difficult to access.
This change is relevant for references, not retweets.
What’s striking about the change is that Twitter will try a new strategy to prevent users from retweeting posts without adding their own comments, and the change will remain the same during Election Week, when Twitter will decide whether the change needs to be retained for longer.
Next week, Twitter will also reportedly impose new restrictions on misleading tweets on its tags, showing users a pop-up prompt linked to trusted tweets for them to view.
Twitter applies these tags to tweets on the platform, such as those that spread misinformation about COVID-19, elections and voting, and any information that contains manipulative media, such as deep fakes or other misleading editing of videos.
Twitter will take other steps to prevent tabged and misleading tweets from U.S. politicians, candidates or campaigns. Twitter didn’t say it wanted to delete the posts, but said it would add misleading hashtags to any content that claims to have won prematurely, pointing users to its vetted election information center.
To view tweets with their tags, users will have to tap the warning that the tagged tweets will be top of the list, and Twitter does plan to remove any tweets that “incite interference in the election process or influence the outcome of the election,” including those that incite violence.
“We hope this will further reduce the visibility of misleading information and encourage people to reconsider whether to expand the volume of these tweets,” Twitter said in a statement. “
“Twitter plays a vital role in protecting the integrity of the election conversation, and we encourage candidates, campaign teams, the news media and voters to use Twitter with respect and recognize our collective responsibility to voters to ensure that this November’s presidential election is conducted in a safe, fair and legitimate democratic environment.” Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s head of law, policy and trust and security, and Kayvon Beykpour, head of products, said in a blog post.
This change will limit how users can use it.
Since announcing the change, Twitter users will be encouraged to “add their own comments” before forwarding, opting instead for the quote tweet option. Users who choose not to quote Twitter can still retweet it, but Twitter says the platform is adding “additional friction and steps.”
“While this change places an additional burden on users who only want to retweet tweets, we hope it will encourage everyone to consider not only why they amplify their tweets, but also increase the likelihood that people will add their own thoughts, reactions, and opinions to the conversation.” Some users may feel the change this Friday local time.
Also, Twitter doesn’t offer “likes” and “follows” suggestions from people users don’t follow, only trending topics with “additional context” in the “For You” tab for U.S. users. Therefore, when a user tries to forward a tweet that is labeled “misleading,” they see a prompt before forwarding, indicating that they have found credible information.
Twitter has tagged several of Mr. Trump’s tweets, saying they violate rules on media manipulation and civil and election integrity because Mr. Trump lied about postal voting numbers in his tweets.
In May, after tweeting a fake tweet about mail-in voting, Trump signed an executive order aimed at reducing protections for social media platforms under Section 230 of the Communications Dignity Act.
Not only that, but in the past month and a half alone, Twitter has shut out the Trump campaign from its Twitter account because the video shared a false story that children were almost “immune” to COVID-19, and several of Trump’s tweets encouraged people to vote twice, though it was illegal.
Twitter has been making similar changes in recent months.
In September, Twitter announced that it would launch a test feature to address misinsent before the U.S. election, including plans to flag or delete tweets with false information about election manipulation and results.
This feature prompts the user to click the link before retweeting it to the entire platform. This change marks a major shift in thinking on social platforms, which are growing rapidly by putting engagement above all other measures.
Twitter also clarified its policy on the outcome of the election, in which candidates “may not ask to win an election until the official election is held.” Also, Twitter will seek the expected results of national election officials or news sources from at least two countries.
And Twitter said it would label candidates’ premature victory and ban all political ads last year, which has added staff to the U.S. election to deal with any election-day issues that arise.
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Twitter first opened its election center in September, introducing a range of tools to help people prepare for elections.
The platform will reportedly add a new “US Election” tab to the Browse menu, which includes trending tags and a list of other featured topics. The tab will be used as Twitter’s primary source, hand-picking election news, live debates, state-specific resources, and candidate information in English and Spanish.
“Twitter wants to empower every suitable citizen to vote in the 2020 U.S. election, and we are committed to helping people sign up, better understand the voting process during COVID-19, including early voting options, and understand their voting choices.” Bridget Coyne, Twitter’s director of public policy, and Sam Toizer, a senior product manager, said in a statement.
Twitter has taken a number of steps early on to address concerns about mis-information and platform manipulation during the 2020 election. Unlike Facebook, which took more incremental steps, Twitter chose not to accept political advertising in a decision last October.