Twitter has announced it is banning any kind of information shared on its platform that contains misinformation about the COVID-19 coronavirus. The sweeping ban came into effect in the last 24 hours during which time Twitter broadened their definition of “harm” to include “content that goes directly against guidance from authoritative sources of global and local public health information.”
Update: we’re expanding our safety rules to include content that could place people at a higher risk of transmitting COVID-19.
Now, we will require people to remove Tweets that include the following:
— Twitter Safety (@TwitterSafety) March 18, 2020
Under the sweeping move, Twitter will ban all false claims about COVID-19 coronavirus, including about its spread, cures, or protection measures. Twitter gave a host of examples of the kinds of tweets that will be removed, including the following:
“Coronavirus is not heat-resistant—walking outside is enough to disinfect you.”
“Use aromatherapy and essential oils to prevent COVID-19.”
“Drinking bleach and ingesting colloidal silver will cure COVID-19.”
“COVID-19 does not infect children because we haven’t seen any cases of children being sick.”
“Coronavirus is a fraud and not real—go out and patronize your local bar!!”
“The news about washing your hands is propaganda for soap companies, stop washing your hands.”
“Ignore news about COVID-19, it’s just an attempt to destroy capitalism by crashing the stock market.”
“The National Guard just announced that no more shipments of food will be arriving for 2 months—run to the grocery store ASAP and buy everything!”
“If you can hold your breath for 10 seconds, you do not have coronavirus.”
“If you have a wet cough, it’s not coronavirus—but a dry cough is.”
“You’ll feel like you’re drowning in snot if you have coronavirus—it’s not a normal runny nose.”
“People with dark skin are immune to COVID-19 due to melanin production.”
“Reading the Quran will make an individual immune to COVID-19.”
“Avoid businesses owned by Chinese people as they are more likely to have COVID-19.”
It’s shocking, but the examples above are readily found on Twitter already, and it’s easy to see how they could enable real-world harm to people that take them as fact. Of course, Twitter moving to ban these types of statements is one thing. Actually getting the offending tweets removed from the platform in a timely manner is another. Whether Twitter has the capacity to do that remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, in South Africa, the spreading of false information about coronavirus is now a crime, punishable by up to six months in prison, a heavy fine, or both.
The measure was implemented by the government on Wednesday 18 March in an effort to combat the rapid spread of misleading information and false news about the virus circulating on social media. Other measures include legally enforcing testing, treatment and quarantine or isolation of suspected cases.
Article originally published on fastcompany.com.