Five strikes and you’re out – Twitter tackles COVID-19 vaccine misinformation

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After a year of being gripped by the fear of contracting COVID-19, vaccines have started rolling out in various parts of the world. However, as with everything COVID-19 related, misinformation about the vaccine has started spreading like wild fire online.

Twitter is addressing this spread of misinformation through the use of labels and a strike system akin to that used by platforms such as YouTube.

“Starting today, we will begin applying labels to Tweets that may contain misleading information about COVID-19 vaccines, in addition to our continued efforts to remove the most harmful COVID-19 misleading information from the service. Since introducing our COVID-19 guidance, we have removed more than 8 400 Tweets and challenged 11.5 million accounts worldwide,” the Twitter Safety team wrote in a blog.

Labels will be applied to tweets by Twitter Safety team members who have determined that a tweet violates Twitter’s COVID-19 misleading information policy. From there, these assessments will be used to train Twitter’s automated tools so that the platform can use a mix of automated processes and human review to address violations of its policy.

“As such, we will begin with English-language content first and use this same process as we work to expand to other languages and cultural contexts over time,” explained the Twitter Safety team.

This could prove problematic for countries outside of the US where English isn’t the first language. For instance, somebody in South Africa could get around these misinformation safeguards simply by tweeting in one or more of our 11 official languages.

We understand that Twitter is based in the US but it really needs to get better at localisation given the size of its global user base.

Our rant aside, let’s take a closer look at the Twitter strike system.

“Through the use of the strike system, we hope to educate people on why certain content breaks our rules so they have the opportunity to further consider their behavior and their impact on the public conversation,” the platform explained.

The strike system will comprise five levels:

  • One strike – no account-level action
  • Two strikes – 12-hour account lock
  • Three strikes – 12-hour account lock
  • Four strikes – 7-day account lock
  • Five strikes – permanent suspension

Twitter says that users will be allowed to submit an appeal if they believe their account was locked or suspended in error.

While this might curb misinformation, we suspect that Twitter is going to have to get a lot better at policing its platform in other parts of the globe. Misinformation is not only spread in English and Twitter really needs to cotton on to that.

Brendyn Lotz

Brendyn Lotz

Brendyn Lotz writes news, reviews, and opinion pieces for Hypertext. His interests include SMEs, innovation on the African continent, cybersecurity, blockchain, games, geek culture and YouTube.