Elon Musk recently pledged to release “The Twitter Files” and expose what the social media company did to suppress free speech over the past few years, saying “The Twitter Files on free speech suppression soon to be published on Twitter itself. The public deserves to know what really happened …“.
Well, the first of those reports has now been published. It’s the one on Twitter’s Covid-19 misinformation policy. That policy is, thanks to Musk, no longer in effect. Twitter announced that “Effective November 23, 2022, Twitter is no longer enforcing the COVID-19 misleading information policy.”
And, as the policy is no longer in effect, people started digging and uncovered that the first transparency report has actually come out, having been published on July 28, 2022 and being quite informative as to Twitter’s Covid censorship efforts.
According to the data in the report, since January of 2020, over 11 million Twitter accounts were challenged by the company for violating its Covid policy. Of those challenged accounts, a total of 11,230 were suspended. Further, nearly 100,000 (97,674) individual pieces of content were removed from Twitter thanks to the policy.
The month with the most challenges was December of 2020, when over 3 million accounts were challenged. The challenges then dramatically fell off, with 338k in January of 2021, and then under 1000 after then.
By contrast, the month with the most suspensions was January of 2022, when over 2,200 accounts were suspended under the rule. Over a thousand accounts were suspended as recently as August of this year under the Covid policy.
The most content removals came in January of 2021, when over 7,000 pieces of content were removed. Removals stayed high throughout that year, only tailing off in early 2022.
Combined, the shifting numbers of suspensions, removals, and challenges show Twitter’s shifting attempts at censorship as it moved between tactics to enforce an anti-free speech policy and silence dissent on the topic.
Justifying the past policy on the page, Twitter said:
The world has changed dramatically since this pandemic was first declared a public health emergency. Since then, public health experts, medical professionals, scientists and researchers have been educating and informing us on how to stay safe, and Twitter has worked to highlight and empower that vital public conversation. As the global vaccination rollout evolves and the pandemic enters a new phase, we are committed to ensuring our rules and enforcement match the changing nature of the content we’re seeing on Twitter.
Similarly, as the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines expands around the world at varying degrees of pace and scale, people continue to turn to Twitter to discuss what’s happening and find the latest authoritative public health information. As such, we continue to prioritize removing or annotating potentially harmful and misleading information to ensure that users can readily find credible information during this critical phase.
Further details about some of the most common types of misleading claims which we will remove under this policy are provided on our blog.
By: Will Tanner
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