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Twitter drops its Covid-19 misleading information policy

 

Twitter has dropped its COVID-19 misinformation policy as part of new owner Elon Musk’s pro-free speech agenda for the platform. 

Last night, some Twitter users noticed that the change had been implemented on November 23. They had seen a post on the ‘transparency’ page of the company’s website which said: ‘Effective November 23, 2022, Twitter is no longer enforcing the COVID-19 misinformation policy.’ 

Twitter developed the rules in 2020 to filter out ‘harmful misinformation’ about COVID and vaccines. They were able to censor and label tweets deemed to contain misleading information that the company considered posed considerable harm to public health.

Between January 2020 and September 2022, Twitter suspended more than 11,200 accounts for breaking their policy as well as removing nearly 100,000 pieces of content. 

It comes as Musk vowed to soon reinstate previously banned Twitter accounts which could include some of the 11,000 suspended under the previous coronavirus rules.

Last night, some Twitter users noticed that the change had been implemented on November 23 after seeing a post on the 'transparency' page of the company's website Last night, some Twitter users noticed that the change had been implemented on November 23 after seeing a post on the 'transparency' page of the company's website

 Last night, some Twitter users noticed that the change had been implemented on November 23 after seeing a post on the ‘transparency’ page of the company’s website

The post said: 'Effective November 23, 2022, Twitter is no longer enforcing the COVID-19 misinformation policy' The post said: 'Effective November 23, 2022, Twitter is no longer enforcing the COVID-19 misinformation policy'

The post said: ‘Effective November 23, 2022, Twitter is no longer enforcing the COVID-19 misinformation policy’

Twitter had developed the rules in 2020 to prevent 'harmful misinformation' about COVID and vaccines. They were able to censor and label tweets deemed to contain misleading information. Pictured: An example of a censored tweet Twitter had developed the rules in 2020 to prevent 'harmful misinformation' about COVID and vaccines. They were able to censor and label tweets deemed to contain misleading information. Pictured: An example of a censored tweet

Twitter had developed the rules in 2020 to prevent ‘harmful misinformation’ about COVID and vaccines. They were able to censor and label tweets deemed to contain misleading information. Pictured: An example of a censored tweet 

The platform had labeled one of Trump's tweets about coronavirus in the past but the policy has now been outlawed The platform had labeled one of Trump's tweets about coronavirus in the past but the policy has now been outlawed

The platform had labeled one of Trump’s tweets about coronavirus in the past but the policy has now been outlawed 

Upon his multi-billion-dollar takeover of Twitter, Mr Musk billed the social media giant as a bastion for free speech. He wanted to reduce content moderation on the site due to this, something that critics warned would lead to a spike in abuse, harassment and other harmful behavior. 

He has also voiced his plans to reinstate some of the most controversial accounts, calling for ‘general amnesty.’ 

Prominent figures on the platform who had been banned in the past for violating Twitter’s anti-misinformation policy have since been reinstated, including Georgia far-right Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green. 

Rep Green attacked the platform’s decision to freeze her account last January, tweeting from her congressional account: ‘I’m the only Member of Congress the unelected big tech oligarchs permanently banned… On January 2, 2022, they violated my freedom of speech and ability to campaign fundraise crying ‘covid misinformation.”

The reason for the major policy change as well as its quiet debut remain unclear. The billionaire has proven a staunch opponent of draconian social distancing measures and vaccine mandates over the past couple of years. 

Mr Musk backed an anti-vaccine mandate protest , writing ‘Canadian truckers’ rule, in response to a January demonstration. 

Upon his multi-billion-dollar takeover of Twitter, Mr Musk billed the social media giant as a bastion for free speech. He has voiced his plans to reinstate some of the most controversial accounts, calling for 'general amnesty' Upon his multi-billion-dollar takeover of Twitter, Mr Musk billed the social media giant as a bastion for free speech. He has voiced his plans to reinstate some of the most controversial accounts, calling for 'general amnesty'

Upon his multi-billion-dollar takeover of Twitter, Mr Musk billed the social media giant as a bastion for free speech. He has voiced his plans to reinstate some of the most controversial accounts, calling for ‘general amnesty’

In September 2020, Mr Musk said that he would decline the Covid vaccine because ‘I’m not at risk for Covid, nor are my kids.’ He has since been vaccinated against Covid. 

The billionaire also urged for an end to early ‘fascist’ isolation practices that he said in April 2020 constituted ”forcibly imprisoning people in their homes’ against all their Constitutional rights.’

Since Mr Musk’s takeover, Twitter has seen a spike in transphobic, antisemitic, racist, and otherwise offensive speech. 

His decision to outlaw the coronavirus misleading information policy comes as America is still seeing 305,000 cases and 2,600 deaths a week, according to the CDC.

He has also made a huge number of other changes at Twitter to misinformation policies and procedures. 

One change announced days ago was that suspended Twitter accounts will be offered an ‘amnesty’ from this week after a poll revealed a landslide of users support the move.

The Twitter CEO, who completed a $44 billion takeover in October, said accounts for users will be restored as long as they have not broken the law or spammed people on the social media site.

While it has not formally been explained why the rules have changed, the billionaire appears to be anti vaccine mandates and in the past seemed to back a protest against them, writing 'Canadian truckers' rule , in response to a demonstration. It is despite the fact he has said he and his family are fully vaccinated While it has not formally been explained why the rules have changed, the billionaire appears to be anti vaccine mandates and in the past seemed to back a protest against them, writing 'Canadian truckers' rule , in response to a demonstration. It is despite the fact he has said he and his family are fully vaccinated

 While it has not formally been explained why the rules have changed, the billionaire appears to be anti vaccine mandates and in the past seemed to back a protest against them, writing ‘Canadian truckers’ rule , in response to a demonstration. It is despite the fact he has said he and his family are fully vaccinated

The poll posted online asked: ‘Should Twitter offer a general amnesty to suspended accounts, provided that they have not broken the law or engaged in egregious spam?’

Some 72.4 percent of voters said yes, while 27.6 percent said no. There were 3,162,112 votes cast during the 24-hour poll.

Musk said on Thursday: ‘The people have spoken. Amnesty begins next week. Vox Populi, Vox Dei.’ The Latin phrase means ‘the voice of the people is the voice of God’.

The declaration opens up the possibility that thousands of suspended accounts will be immediately reinstated. It has not been revealed if there will be a vetting process before the reactivation or if there will be a mass reactivation. 

Musk has already restored Donald Trump, Kanye West, Andrew Tate, Jordan Peterson and Marjorie Taylor Green’s accounts. It is likely that he could also reinstate other controversial Twitter accounts including figures such as Steve Bannon, Wiley and Katie Hopkins.

The declaration opens up the possibility that thousands of suspended accounts will be immediately reinstated. It has not been revealed if there will be a vetting process before the reactivation or if there will be a mass reactivation. Pictured: Trump, whose Twitter account Musk has reinstated The declaration opens up the possibility that thousands of suspended accounts will be immediately reinstated. It has not been revealed if there will be a vetting process before the reactivation or if there will be a mass reactivation. Pictured: Trump, whose Twitter account Musk has reinstated

The declaration opens up the possibility that thousands of suspended accounts will be immediately reinstated. It has not been revealed if there will be a vetting process before the reactivation or if there will be a mass reactivation. Pictured: Trump, whose Twitter account Musk has reinstated 

According to a report from Bloomberg, Mr Musk has also dramatically reduced the size of the team devoted to tackling child sexual exploitation on the platform.

The report suggests that the team of specialists that review and escalate reports of child sexual exploitation has more been halved.

Last week, Mr Musk tweeted that ‘removing child exploitation is priority £1’.

Since taking over the company, the billionaire has also laid off more than half of the platform’s 7,500 staff, which has increased fears about the firm’s ability to successfully moderate the site with substantially reduced staff numbers.

Musk has already restored Donald Trump, Kanye West, Andrew Tate, pictured, Jordan Peterson and Marjorie Taylor Green's accounts. It is likely that he could also reinstate other controversial Twitter accounts including figures such as Steve Bannon, Wiley and Katie Hopkins Musk has already restored Donald Trump, Kanye West, Andrew Tate, pictured, Jordan Peterson and Marjorie Taylor Green's accounts. It is likely that he could also reinstate other controversial Twitter accounts including figures such as Steve Bannon, Wiley and Katie Hopkins

Musk has already restored Donald Trump, Kanye West, Andrew Tate, pictured, Jordan Peterson and Marjorie Taylor Green’s accounts. It is likely that he could also reinstate other controversial Twitter accounts including figures such as Steve Bannon, Wiley and Katie Hopkins

And earlier this month, in another change, Musk fired Twitter contractors responsible for battling misinformation on the site. The social media giant fired its contractors that track hate and other harmful content.

Some of the contractors said they did not know they were fired until they tried to login for work. 

As fears grow over misinformation, it was last night revealed that the White House are monitoring Musk’s account.

It comes after the WHO warned in April of the dangers of vaccine and health misinformation ahead of the takeover by Musk, Bloomberg reported.

Some contractors said they had no idea they were fired until they were unable to log onto the company's systems. Pictured: Twitter headquarters in San Francisco Some contractors said they had no idea they were fired until they were unable to log onto the company's systems. Pictured: Twitter headquarters in San Francisco

Some contractors said they had no idea they were fired until they were unable to log onto the company’s systems. Pictured: Twitter headquarters in San Francisco 

Musk said on Oct. 29 he would set up a content moderation council with ‘widely diverse viewpoints’.

Elsewhere, in another development in Musk’s Twitter takeover, he last night accused Apple of threatening to remove the social media giant from its app store. 

He also accused Apple of stopping advertising on Twitter along with a raft of others. There are concerns over Musk’s content moderation plans which have meant that many companies have paused advertising.

The world’s richest man said he was in the dark about why Apple had allegedly threatened to remove Twitter from its App Store.

He tweeted Apple’s CEO directly – asking: ‘What’s going on here @tim_cook?’

Elsewhere, in another development in Musk's Twitter takeover, he last night accused Apple of threatening to remove the social media giant from its app store Elsewhere, in another development in Musk's Twitter takeover, he last night accused Apple of threatening to remove the social media giant from its app store

 Elsewhere, in another development in Musk’s Twitter takeover, he last night accused Apple of threatening to remove the social media giant from its app store

Meanwhile, in the early days after Musk bought Twitter for $44 billion in late October and dismissed its board of directors and top executives, the billionaire Tesla CEO sought to assure civil rights groups and advertisers that the platform could continue tamping down hate.

That message was reiterated by Twitter’s then-head of content moderation, Yoel Roth, who tweeted that the November 4 layoffs only affected ‘15% of our Trust Safety organization (as opposed to approximately 50% cuts company-wide), with our front-line moderation staff experiencing the least impact.’

Roth has since resigned from the company, joining an exodus of high-level leaders who were tasked with privacy protection, cybersecurity and complying with regulations.

Meanwhile, in the early days after Musk bought Twitter for $44 billion in late October and dismissed its board of directors and top executives , the billionaire Tesla CEO sought to assure civil rights groups and advertisers that the platform could continue tamping down hate. That message was reiterated by Twitter's then-head of content moderation, Yoel Roth, pictured, who has since left the company Meanwhile, in the early days after Musk bought Twitter for $44 billion in late October and dismissed its board of directors and top executives , the billionaire Tesla CEO sought to assure civil rights groups and advertisers that the platform could continue tamping down hate. That message was reiterated by Twitter's then-head of content moderation, Yoel Roth, pictured, who has since left the company

Meanwhile, in the early days after Musk bought Twitter for $44 billion in late October and dismissed its board of directors and top executives , the billionaire Tesla CEO sought to assure civil rights groups and advertisers that the platform could continue tamping down hate. That message was reiterated by Twitter’s then-head of content moderation, Yoel Roth, pictured, who has since left the company 

Musk’s decision to drop the Covid-19 misinformation policy has materialized after he  came under fire previously for expressing controversial opinions on vaccines and coronavirus. He said in 2020 that fears of the virus were ‘dumb’ and falsely claimed that children were ‘essentially immune’ before branding lockdowns ‘fascist.’

But he backtracked in 2021, saying on Twitter: ‘I do support vaccines in general and covid vaccines specifically’ and said that ‘rare’ allergic reactions can be ‘easily addressed.’ 

He wrote: ‘To be clear, I do support vaccines in general covid vaccines specifically. The science is unequivocal.

‘In very rare cases, there is an allergic reaction, but this is easily addressed with an EpiPen.’

Musk's decision to drop the Covid-19 misinformation policy has materialized after he came under fire previously for expressing controversial opinions on vaccines and coronavirus. He said in 2020 that fears of the virus were 'dumb' and falsely claimed that children were 'essentially immune' before branding lockdowns 'fascist.' Pictured: Musk with his family- partner Grimes and their son Musk's decision to drop the Covid-19 misinformation policy has materialized after he came under fire previously for expressing controversial opinions on vaccines and coronavirus. He said in 2020 that fears of the virus were 'dumb' and falsely claimed that children were 'essentially immune' before branding lockdowns 'fascist.' Pictured: Musk with his family- partner Grimes and their son

Musk’s decision to drop the Covid-19 misinformation policy has materialized after he came under fire previously for expressing controversial opinions on vaccines and coronavirus. He said in 2020 that fears of the virus were ‘dumb’ and falsely claimed that children were ‘essentially immune’ before branding lockdowns ‘fascist.’ Pictured: Musk with his family- partner Grimes and their son 

But he backtracked on his earlier statements in 2021, saying on Twitter: 'I do support vaccines in general and covid vaccines specifically' and said that 'rare' allergic reactions can be 'easily addressed' But he backtracked on his earlier statements in 2021, saying on Twitter: 'I do support vaccines in general and covid vaccines specifically' and said that 'rare' allergic reactions can be 'easily addressed'

But he backtracked on his earlier statements in 2021, saying on Twitter: ‘I do support vaccines in general and covid vaccines specifically’ and said that ‘rare’ allergic reactions can be ‘easily addressed’

He had previously stirred up concerns about vaccine safety when he suggested that the second dose could be harmful.  

Musk was replying to a post someone had shared about their parents’ refusing to get the vaccine ‘based on stuff they saw on Facebook.’

He appeared to add fuel to the so-called ‘Facebook brainwashing effect’ cited by the social media user when he raised concerns about ‘quite a few negative reactions’ to the second shot.

It came after the lab leak was censored and denounced by Twitter as a possible cause for how the coronavirus pandemic started- but is now one of the leading theories. 

MailOnline contacted Twitter for comment.  

TIMELINE OF ELON MUSK’S CHAOTIC TWITTER TAKEOVER

April 2: Musk announces that he owns 9.2 percent of the company, making him its largest single shareholder 

April 14: Musk offers to take Twitter private at $54.20 a share, valuing the company at $44billion 

April 25: Twitter accepts Musk’s offer

April 29: Musk sells $8billion in Tesla shares to finance deal 

May 13: Musk says Twitter deal is on hold pending a review of bot accounts

May 26: Musk is sued by Twitter for stock manipulation during takeover 

July 8:  Musk says he’s backing out of the deal. Twitter sues, trying to force him into seeing it through.

October 4: Musk proposes again to go ahead with the deal at the original price

October 17: Proposed trial date in Delaware

October 26: Musk visits Twitter HQ with a sink, updates his bio on the site to ‘Chief Twit’ and sets his location to Twitter HQ

October 27: Musk’s $44 billion takeover of Twitter is finally completed

October 28: Musk fires top Twitter employees, including CEO Parag Agrawal, CFO Ned Segal and top counsel Vijaya Gadde, the woman responsible for banning President Trump after the January 6 riots last year.

October 30: Twitter employees are told by Musk to make verified accounts a feature that’s exclusive to Twitter Blue, the platform’s paid subscription service

October 31: Musk confirms he’s the new CEO of Twitter and dissolves the board of directors

 

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