Twitter has finally decided to do something real to tackle the menace of political lies and fake news coming from political officials and leaders. After claiming for years that it cannot delete tweets by political leaders or take action against them in the interest of public debate, Twitter is finally letting the public speak against lies, threats and misinformation spread by official party channels and politicians.
The platform is experimenting with a new community moderation approach that would allow users to identify misleading information posted by politicians and public figures. After its ban on all political advertisements, albeit with “a few exceptions” for issue-based ads, Twitter is looking to tackle the spread of false information on its platform by politicians.
The feature, similar to Wikipedia, will enable the company to add bright labels and tags directly beneath tweets suspected to have lies or misinformation posted by politicians and other public figures. Such information would be corrected directly beneath the tweet by fact-checkers and journalists who are verified on the platform and possibly by other users who are allowed to participate in a new “community reports” feature.
The feature was leaked in a Twitter demo sent to NBC News and is reportedly one possible step being taken to curb misinformation ahead of the 2020 US Presidential elections.
“We’re exploring a number of ways to address misinformation and provide more context for tweets on Twitter. Misinformation is a critical issue and we will be testing many different ways to address it,” a Twitter spokesperson was quoted as saying by the report.
What’s Twitter Doing About Political Content In India?
In India, Twitter had committed to being more stringent on political advertisers ahead of the Lok Sabha elections last year. A voluntary code of ethics was developed by the internet and mobile association of India (IAMAI) and was submitted by the Election Commission of India before the general elections.
Facebook, Google, Twitter and YouTube also agreed to cooperate with the Election Commission of India and said that only pre-authorised Indian advertisers would be allowed to run political ads on their platform. Participants also agreed to take action on content reported by the electoral nodal officers. Recently, leading tech companies including Facebook, Google, Twitter and ByteDance came together to form Information Trust Alliance (ITA) to curb misinformation.
However, that hasn’t stopped Twitter from not acting against certain accounts that are clearly spreading hate speech and targetting individuals across the political aisle. In recent months, Twitter was caught in a controversy over suppressing tweets from accounts belonging to individuals from scheduled castes and scheduled tribes and other backward castes. Twitter did not directly respond to allegations of casteism at the time.
Twitter was also at the centre of many controversies surrounding the Citizenship Amendment Act and its protests online. Noted filmmaker Anurag Kashyap’s account suddenly lost followers after his tweet against CAA went viral, while a campaign supporting CAA was also promoted on Twitter, where citizens were asked to call a support line on the pretence of winning rewards and getting other prizes.
While Twitter is right in finally doing something to curb the menace of fake news being so easily spread through its platform, it must also look at concerted efforts being run on behalf of politicians and political parties to mislead citizens in the run-up to crucial elections and around controversial laws.