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Twitter may label some politicians’ tweets as fake news

Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter and founder of Square. (JD Lasica/Flickr)
February 21, 2020

Twitter is testing new tools to label disinformation, including orange and red badges and a community-based points system, according to leaked screen captures of the platform’s demos this week.

Twitter confirmed the authenticity of the leaked images to NBC on Thursday. One possible iteration of the new feature would include badges that are as large and as visible as the offending tweets and which labels them as “harmfully misleading.”

Leaked images from the demo include labels for tweets including one from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, (R-CA) discussing information about the Intelligence Community Inspector General’s whistleblower guidelines, labeled as misinformation. Another offending tweet involved Sen. Bernie Sanders, (I-VT) about gun background checks.

The images indicate Twitter will also decrease the visibility of tweets labeled as “harmfully misleading.”

Other features of the new system reportedly include a way to directly attach articles that fact check the offending tweets. The fact-checking system would reportedly include inputs from fact-checkers and journalists permitted by the platform.

Twitter is also considering a points-based system to reward points to users that exercise good information practices and help clarify information the see being passed around on the platform. Such a system would purportedly help the platform prevent users from abusing the fact-checking system and instead weigh the fact-checks based on the established credibility of its fact-checking users.

The platform has not yet decided when it will officially roll out the new features, though Twitter told NBC reporters the new system could come into effect within the next several weeks.

Social media platforms have become an issue for political groups vying for power. Politicians like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) have warned that platforms may be exploited to spread politically advantageous misinformation and decried companies like Facebook for allowing political advertising even if opponents believe the advertising is misleading. Other politicians, such as Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) have warned that social media platforms have targeted some political activists, especially conservatives, with censorship to suppress their voices online.

Other social media platforms have struggled with rules on moderating information. Wikipedia has used a similar community model for allowing a diverse set of users work to hold the accuracy of information in check, however, pages are still subject to vandalism in breaking news cases and some users have greater power to lock down pages and moderate what can go on a Wikipedia page.

Facebook has also tried implementing fact check tools, though its CEO Mark Zuckerberg has recently said he wants to air on the side of free expression and has appealed for more clear guidance from governments as to what moderation rules social media platforms should apply.