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Elon Musk’s Twitter quietly rolls back COVID misinformation policy

Elon Musk warned Twitter employees they had until Thursday to decide whether they wanted to remain with the social media company. (Brendan Smialowski/La Nacion via ZUMA Press/TNS)

Twitter will no longer flag tweets containing misinformation about COVID-19 nor take action against the accounts that post them; the reversal of a longstanding policy implemented at the peak of the pandemic and the the latest major shift under new owner Elon Musk.

The social media platform did not announce the change in rules, but some users noticed a note on Monday had been added to the Twitter’s page outlining its policy regarding coronavirus.

“Effective November 23, 2022, Twitter is no longer enforcing the COVID-19 misleading information policy,” it read.

The initiative was first implemented in 2020 in a bid to curb misinformation about the virus, its spread and the science surrounding vaccinations. It involved deleting tweets with “demonstrably false or potentially misleading content” as well as the banning of accounts that repeatedly posted such content.

Sine January 2020, the company has suspended more than 11,000 accounts and removed nearly 100,000 posts in connection with the policy, according to data shared by Twitter.

Musk, who officially acquired the company for $44 billion last month, vowed he would emphasize free speech when the company turned private. The policy reversal could realize the Tesla Tycoon’s vow to grant “general amnesty” to the ousted accounts, including the one belonging to former President Donald Trump.

Trump, who was banned for policy violations in wake of the Jan. 6 riots, was allowed back on the platform after Musk polled Twitter users on the matter. The final vote tally on Saturday night showed 51.8% in favor and 48.2% opposed. It included 15 million votes.

The COVID policy rollback also comes after Musk shared a tweet including fake news, ostensibly in a bid to highlight the updated Community Notes feature, previously called Birdwatch. It allows users to evaluate relevant material and is essentially a crowd-sourced fact-checking system.

Musk on Monday posted a doctored headline attributed to CNN, and then wrote “@CommunityNotes FTW!” when a community note appeared on his post suggesting the screengrab was misleading.


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