Twitter unveils US midterm election integrity plans, upsets almost everyone

Don't feed the trolls? Users deem policy an attack on conservatives, dystopian, and election manipulation

Twitter has announced its plans to fight misinformation during the 2022 US midterm elections, including activating its Civic Integrity Policy (CIP).

The CIP, first enacted in 2018, "covers the most common types of harmful misleading information about elections and civic events," the social media company said in a statement regarding the policy changes. 

As part of its efforts to flag disinformation, Twitter plans to label tweets as inaccurate, remove certain content from recommendations, and prevent tweets labeled as misleading or false from being liked or shared - among other measures. 

The CIP has previously been applied to elections around the world, including in the Philippines, Kenya, Brazil, and India in the past year, Twitter said. "Today, as we do ahead of other global elections, we're activating enforcement of our Civic Integrity Policy for the 2022 US midterms," Twitter said. 

It isn't clear whether Twitter has enacted the CIP in full for prior US elections. We've asked about Twitter's wider use of the policy, but haven't heard back.

Twitter's plans to foster a 'healthy civic conversation'

"Twitter plays a critical role in empowering democratic conversations … People deserve to trust the election conversations and content they encounter on Twitter," the social network said in a statement. 

As mentioned above, the CIP casts a wide net. At its most basic, Twitter describes the policy by saying: "You may not use Twitter's services for the purpose of manipulating or interfering in elections or other civic processes," which gives it a wide latitude to act.

Twitter's efforts also include redesigned misinformation labels, which it rolled out late last year. The social network claims a 17 percent increase in people clicking to debunking links, along with double-digit drops in engagement with flagged tweets.

Twitter is also bringing back "prebunks" that aim to get out ahead of misleading narratives. "Over the coming months, we'll place prompts directly on people's timelines in the US and in Search when people type related terms, phrases, or hashtags," Twitter said.

State-specific and location-specific civic event hubs are being attended to, which will feature real-time election news from state officials and local news outlets. Twitter also has plans to release a national event page.

A dedicated elections "Explore" tab is also being added to Twitter, where users can find voter education PSAs, localized news, and curated national news.

Twitter also mentioned candidate account labels it began using in May as a way to ensure credentials, and said it's working to improve recommendations to further de-promote misleading tweets. Early tests of the new recommendations system in the US and Brazil show that impressions on misleading information dropped by 1.6 million per month, Twitter said.

Twitter is also adding additional safeguards to accounts of government officials, candidates, and journalists to prevent takeover ahead of the election.

Can Twitter separate itself from misinformation?

Twitter has been in the spotlight since the 2016 elections, when it emerged that Russian bot accounts managed to spread misinformation around the site by amassing hundreds of thousands of followers, likes, and favorites of tweets, which Twitter later said were false. 

In the wake of the 2020 election, things only got worse for the platform, which took flack for a variety of reasons, including flagging a pair of then-president Donald Trump's as inaccurate, and later banning him from the platform.

Responses from consumers discussing the business's midterm plans appear to be largely unsupportive, with Twitter users saying, among other things, that they don't have faith in the company's ability to decide what's reliable news, calling it an attack on conservatives, dystopian, and election manipulation.

Speaking to Reuters, Yosef Getachew, director of the media and democracy program at the nonpartisan group Common Sense, said Twitter isn't doing enough by including links to debunking articles, and should instead be removing false posts entirely.

"Pointing them to other sources isn't enough," Getachew said.

In the same Reuters story, the deputy senior campaign director of Black civil rights group Color of Change, Evan Feeney, said he's noticed the same patterns playing out in 2022, and argues that world leaders and politicians should be held to a higher standard when tweeting.

"Twitter has a responsibility and ability to stop misinformation at the source," Feeny told Reuters. ®

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