Twitter will begin restricting more content coming from crisis situations like the war in Ukraine, the company said on Tuesday, a policy that would limit posts even as its prospective new owner, Elon Musk, has said he wants the company to do the opposite.
The social network will prohibit content that misleads users about war crimes, mass attacks and events on the ground, among other things. “As soon as we have evidence that a claim may be misleading, we won’t amplify or recommend content that is covered by this policy across Twitter,” Yoel Roth, Twitter’s head of safety and integrity, writes in a blog post. A warning prompt will be applied over violating tweets, notifying users the post has run afoul of the company’s Crisis Misinformation Policy, and Twitter will disable likes, shares and retweets, reducing how far the tweet can spread. Roth says actions like these can reduce a tweet’s reach by 30% to 50%.
Twitter and other social media companies have turned to similar measures in fighting other forms of misinformation—prominently doing so during the last presidential election. Twitter has been seen as a leader in this space, often coming before like-minded initiatives from Meta, the parent company of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. And while the efforts may seem noble to some, it unquestionably places Twitter in a difficult situation, needing to arbitrate what constitutes misinformation.
Under the new Crisis Misinformation Policy, Twitter plans to rely on “verification from multiple credible, publicly available sources, including evidence from conflict monitoring groups, humanitarian organizations, open-source investigators, journalists, and more,” Roth writes.
Historically, no one has been satisfied with Twitter’s moderating actions. Liberals say Twitter doesn’t do enough. Conservatives, like Musk, say it does too much. In the end, no one’s happy! And Twitter is stuck taking it from both sides.
The timing of this latest policy arrives at a moment of flux for the company. Musk’s deal to buy Twitter is in limbo, and while he hasn’t had much to say publicly about what he intends to do with Twitter, he has been pretty upfront about his desire for it to cut back on moderation. This tweet from Musk is exemplary of where he stands on the matter:
Meanwhile, Twitter’s board is urging shareholders to approve the $54.20-a-share deal with Musk even as the company rolls out policies that Musk will almost certainly dislike.
For now, Musk has been mum on this latest change to how Twitter polices speech—key part of that sentence: “for now.”