Twitter Once Again Clarifies Its Policies on Content Enforcement, Labeling Tweets

The social network’s focus is on providing context, not fact-checking

Twitter maintained its belief that it is important to enable people to read and discuss what world leaders say Kronick/iStock

Twitter used a tweetstorm from its Twitter Safety account to clarify the principles behind its content policies in the wake of its ongoing battle with President Donald Trump.

After Twitter placed a fact-check label on two tweets Trump sent last week regarding mail-in ballots, Trump quickly responded by issuing an executive order aimed at altering Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which would strip social platforms of liability protections.

Twitter then determined late last week that another tweet from Trump regarding the protests over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis May 25 following the use of excessive force by the police during an arrest—containing the phrase, “when the looting starts, the shooting starts”—violated its rules about glorifying violence.

The tweet was not deleted, but a label was placed over it.

Twitter Safety outlined the platform’s health principles:

  1. Decrease potential for likely harm.
  2. Decrease harmful bias and incentives.
  3. Decrease reliance on content removal.
  4. Increase diverse perspectives.
  5. Increase public accountability.

The company said, “The principles above connect to everything for us—from our decision to ban all political ads, to our policy around public-interest notices and even a product test that lets people choose who can reply.”

Twitter also addressed how it deals with misinformation, saying that after consulting with the public on its approach last year, two principles stood out:

  • Twitter shouldn’t determine the truthfulness of tweets.
  • Twitter should provide context to help people make up their own minds in cases where the substance of a tweet is disputed.

The social network stressed that its focus is on providing context, and not on fact-checking, adding that it is not attempting to address all misinformation, and the priority is on content with the highest priority for harm.

Areas of focus on this front are manipulated media, civic integrity and Covid-19.

When tweets are labeled, Twitter links to conversation that shows context on three fronts: factual statements (such as, ballots are only being sent to registered voters), opinions/perspectives and ongoing public conversation.

The social network wrote, “We will only add descriptive text that is reflective of the existing public conversation to let people determine their own viewpoints. To date, we have applied these labels to thousands of tweets around the world, primarily related to Covid-19 and manipulated media.”

Twitter maintained its belief that it is important to enable people to read and discuss what world leaders say, even if that content violates its rules.

The company concluded, “We will continue to be transparent in how we make our decisions and be open with our rationale on how we label certain tweets. Publicly sharing our work is core to everything we do. If we can’t explain and be confident in our determination, we will not label a tweet.” David Cohen is editor of Adweek's Social Pro Daily.