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Monday, Feb 06, 2023

Twitter ends COVID-19 “misinformation” policy

Twitter ends COVID-19 “misinformation” policy

"Effective November 23, 2022, Twitter is no longer enforcing the COVID-19 misleading information policy," the company stated on its transparency page for coronavirus misinformation. Additionally, the COVID-19 policy is no longer listed on Twitter's, "How we address misinformation on Twitter" explainer, and the URL for the misinformation policy now redirects to Twitter's Help Center.
On the same day Twitter stopped enforcing its COVID-19 misinformation policy, Musk posted a poll asking his followers if Twitter should offer "general amnesty to suspended accounts" under certain conditions. After more than 3 million people responded, with 72.4% in the affirmative, the billionaire announced "Amnesty begins next week." 

Twitter introduced its COVID-19 misinformation policy in March 2020, announcing that posts contradicting "authoritative sources" on the virus would be taken down. The policy was later expanded to prioritize the "removal of the most harmful, misleading information" about COVID-19 vaccines.

According to Twitter, 11,230 accounts have been suspended for violating the rules against COVID-19 misinformation. More than 11.72 million accounts were challenged under the policy and 97,674 pieces of content worldwide were removed as of September 2022. 

Social media content moderation policies have faced scrutiny from lawmakers as the tech industry has sought to balance combating harmful misinformation with free speech. Lawmakers have weighed in, with Democrats generally calling for greater censorship of posts deemed to spread misinformation and Republicans investigating how the government worked alongside social media platforms to censor and suppress posts about COVID-19. 

In September, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt and Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry accused the Biden administration of pressuring Facebook and Twitter to censor certain posts and demanded that the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services turn over communications the government had with those platforms. 

Musk, a self-described "free speech absolutist," has promised to publish a report that would reveal how and why Twitter suppressed certain accounts. The billionaire CEO has previously stated revealing internal discussions about how Twitter enforced its policies is "necessary to restore public trust." 

"The Twitter Files on free speech suppression soon to be published on Twitter itself," Musk tweeted Monday. "The public deserves to know what really happened…" 

Critics, particularly those on the right, have long criticized the platform for what they regard as unfair and obscure standards regarding which accounts are censored or suspended. 

The tech giant permanently banned former President Trump from the platform in 2021, blocked the New York Post’s story in 2020 on Hunter Biden’s notorious laptop, and locked conservative satire site The Babylon Bee out of its Twitter account in March for awarding transgender Biden administration official Rachel Levine a fictious "Man of the Year" award. 

Twitter had also banned Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., Dr. Robert Malone, a contributor to mRNA vaccine technology, and former New York Times journalist and author Alex Berenson under its COVID-19 policies.
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