While the top of Twitter’s COVID-19 misleading information policy page currently states “Overview November 2021,” a December 2 archive of the page shows that the page was updated and the “Overview November 2021” text was added after December 2.
One of the most notable changes to this “COVID-19 misleading information policy” we noticed is related to claims about whether vaccinated people can spread the coronavirus. The policy now states that Twitter will label tweets with “corrective information” and give users a strike if they:
- Claim that “the vaccines will cause you to be sick, spread the virus, or would be more harmful than getting COVID-19”
- Post what Twitter describes as “false or misleading claims that people who have received the vaccine can spread or shed the virus (or symptoms, or immunity) to unvaccinated people”
This means Twitter users could now be sanctioned for sharing or discussing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) admission that “vaccinated people can still become infected and have the potential to spread the virus to others.”
Another change is that Twitter will start giving a strike to and labeling the tweets of users that use research and statistical findings to “make claims contrary to health authorities,” if it decides that their claims “misrepresent research or statistical findings pertaining to the severity of the disease, prevalence of the virus, or effectiveness of widely accepted preventative measures, treatments, or vaccines.”
Previously, Twitter would sanction what it deemed to be “false or misleading” information about research findings but there was no provision about contradicting health authorities.
In addition to this, Twitter will give users two strikes and remove their tweets if they claim that “vaccines approved by health agencies (such as Pfizer’s Comirnaty vaccine in the United States) did not actually receive full approval/authorization, and therefore that the vaccines are untested, ‘experimental’ or somehow unsafe.” This appears to be a reference to criticism of a footnote in the Federal Drug Administration (FDA’s) “full authorization” documents for the Pfizer-BioNTech (Comirnaty) vaccine which revealed that the FDA had extended the emergency-use authorization for the same vaccine.
Furthermore, users that claim that vaccines are part of a “global surveillance” effort will have their tweets removed and be given two strikes. The introduction of this provision follows vaccine-related surveillance tech, such as vaccine passports, being introduced in many countries.
Some of the other claims that will be sanctioned under Twitter’s updated policy include:
- “False or misleading information suggesting that unapproved treatments can be curative of COVID-19” (label and one strike)
- “Claims that “vaccines (in general) are dangerous and the adverse effects that have been covered up by governments/the medical industry” (removal and two strikes)
- “Tweets that incite fear or misrepresent the ingredients or contents of COVID-19 vaccines” (label and one strike)
- “Tweets that mischaracterize the nature and science behind mRNA vaccines, and how they work” (label and one strike)
- “Tweets that claim vaccines alter genetic code” (label and one strike)”
Under Twitter’s current strikes system, two or three strikes results in a 12-hour account lock, four strikes results in a seven-day account lock, and five or more strikes results in a permanent suspension. This means users that have three tweets removed or five tweets labeled under this updated COVID-19 misleading information policy will have their accounts permanently suspended.
And as part of this policy update, Twitter has added new provisions that can result in accounts being permanently suspended, even if they don’t have strikes.
“We may immediately permanently suspend accounts…if we determine that the account repeatedly violates the COVID-19 misinformation policy over a 30-day time period, or if we have determined that the account has been set up for the expressed purpose of Tweeting false or misleading information about COVID-19,” the updated policy states.
Labeled tweets may also be subject to additional restrictions which include:
- Being removed from certain parts of Twitter (such as the top search results and recommendations)
- An additional prompt that warns users when they attempt to share or like the tweet
- Having the like, reply, and retweet functionality disabled
The additions to this COVID-19 misleading information policy page follow the company appointing a new CEO, Parag Agrawal, less than two weeks ago. Agrawal has faced scrutiny for previous statements where he rejected free speech in favor of favor of “healthy public conversation.”
In the short period Agrawal has served as CEO, Twitter has censored several high profile accounts, prohibited the sharing of photos and videos of people without their permission, and censored a link to the American Heart Association. Details of a secret Twitter program that fast-tracks elite users’ takedown demands were also made public in the last few days.