FP StaffNov 30, 2022 09:29:48 IST
Much to the dismay of health experts and Twitter users, Elon Musk-led Twitter has announced that the platform will no longer be enforcing its Prevention of COVID Misinformation policy. What this basically means, is that Twitter will no longer be labelling any misinformation on COVID with a special tag on the platform.
Medical professionals, researchers and leading health experts have expressed their disappointment about the decision and claim that false and misleading health information around COVID still has the potential to harm individuals and public health, and put lives at risk.
“Effective November 23, 2022, Twitter is no longer enforcing the COVID-19 misleading information policy,” the social media platform announced across various places on its website.
Towards the end of 2020, the World Health Organization put out a call to action to address what it called the “infodemic,” which aimed to “mitigate harm from health misinformation” that can cause confusion, mistrust, harmful risk-taking behaviours, and can prolong and intensify disease outbreaks.
WHO also started a myth-busting campaign to try to fight back against misinformation, producing advisories clarifying that medical masks do not cause oxygen deprivation, and drinking bleach does not prevent COVID-19 but will certainly harm you. Twitter, played a vital role in the campaign
In a press briefing earlier this year, Katherine O’Brien, WHO’s director of the Department of Immunization, Vaccines, and Biologicals, noted that false and misleading information on social media is not innocuous. “This is not just a matter of chatter on social media channels, it really has an impact on what people do, what they choose to do – for themselves, for their children, for their families. So, it’s something we take really seriously.”
Much like the Republican party and its leaders, Musk himself has a murky relationship with COVID-related health misinformation. Musk had also embroiled himself in a bit of a controversy when he forced workers at his Tesla plant to defy lockdown orders and continue working at the plant. In March 2020, he tweeted that “the coronavirus panic is dumb,” as well as the falsehood that children are “essentially immune” to COVID-19.
The good thing in all of this though, is that Musk did come out in support of vaccines, and tweeted extensively supporting the vaccination campaigns across the US.
The devolution of credible content and discourse on Twitter is likely to spur yet more concern from health officials over misinformation on social media platforms.
As for Twitter, the main reason why they are no longer enforcing the policy is quite simple – they don’t have the people to do so. During his cleanup of Twitter, Musk unceremoniously got rid of several teams of content moderators, including people who were hired on a contractual basis.
Moreover, it seems that Musk simply isn’t interested in putting a moderation committee in place as he had previously promised advertisers and users when he took over the platform.