Twitter is stepping up the fight against misinformation with a new policy that spreads messages that spread potentially dangerous false stories. Change is part of a broader effort to promote accurate information during a conflict or crisis.

Starting Thursday, the platform will no longer automatically recommend or underline reports that mislead allegations of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, including material that incorrectly characterizes conditions in conflict zones or make false allegations of war crimes or atrocities against civilians.

FILE – An illustrative photo taken on October 26, 2020, shows the Twitter logo displayed on a smartphone and tablet screen in Toulouse, France.

In line with its new “crisis disinformation policy,” Twitter will also add warning labels to refuting allegations of ongoing humanitarian crises, the San Francisco-based company said. Users will not be able to like, send or reply to messages that violate the new rules.

The changes make Twitter the latest social platform to combat misinformation, propaganda and rumors that have spread since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February. This misinformation ranges from rumors spread by well-meaning users to Kremlin propaganda fueled by Russian diplomats or fake accounts and networks linked to Russian intelligence.

“We have seen both sides share information that can be misleading and / or misleading,” said Joel Roth, head of Twitter’s security and integrity service, who spoke in detail about the new policy for journalists. “Our policy does not differentiate between different militants. Instead, we focus on misinformation that can be dangerous, no matter where it comes from.”

The new policy will complement existing Twitter rules, which prohibit digitally manipulating media, false allegations of elections and voting, and misinformation about health, including refuted allegations of COVID-19 and vaccines.

FILE - Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk speaks at a conference in Washington on March 9, 2020.

FILE – Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk speaks at a conference in Washington on March 9, 2020.

But it may also clash with Tesla billionaire Elon Musk, who has agreed to pay $ 44 billion to acquire Twitter in order to make it a haven for free speech. Musk has not considered many cases of what this will mean in practice, although he said Twitter should only delete messages that break the law, which will literally prevent action against most misinformation, personal attacks and harassment. He also criticized the algorithms used by Twitter and other social platforms to recommend certain messages to individuals.

The policy was written broadly to cover misinformation during other conflicts, natural disasters, humanitarian crises or “any situation where there is a widespread threat to health and safety,” Roth said.

Twitter said it would rely on various credible sources to determine if the post was misleading. These sources will include humanitarian groups, conflict observers and journalists.

A senior spokesman for Ukraine’s cybersecurity service, Viktor Zhora, welcomed the new Twitter check policy and said the world community must “find the right ways to prevent the spread of misinformation on social media.”

Although the results have been mixed, Twitter’s efforts to combat misinformation about the conflict in Ukraine have surpassed those of other platforms that have opted for a more inconspicuous approach, such as Telegram, which is popular in Eastern Europe.

FILE - The Telegram logo can be seen on the smartphone screen in this illustration, April 13, 2018.

FILE – The Telegram logo can be seen on the smartphone screen in this illustration, April 13, 2018.

Answering a specific question about the Telegram platform, where disinformation from the Russian government is widespread, but Ukrainian leaders also reach a wide audience, Zhora said the question was “tricky but very important.” This is because the disinformation, which spread without restriction in the Telegram, “to some extent led to this war.”

Since the Russian invasion began in February, social media platforms such as Twitter and Meta, the owner of Facebook and Instagram, have tried to fight the rise of war-related misinformation, citing reports from Russian-controlled media and diplomats. They also removed the focus on some materials so that they no longer fall into searches or automated recommendations.

Emerson Brooking, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensics Laboratory and an expert on social media and disinformation, said the conflict in Ukraine shows how easily misinformation can spread online during conflict and the need for response platforms.

“This is a conflict that has unfolded on the Internet, and one that has caused extremely rapid changes in technology policy,” he said.

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