Twitter COVID-19 misinformation labeling has got the company more into trouble as it made literally dozens of embarrassing errors this week. It mistakenly applied the label to factually correct tweets from doctors and scientists, in some cases suspending their accounts.
Twitter has offered its apologies to those affected, and promised to review its procedures to prevent any repetition …
Twitter COVID-19 errors
The Washington Post reports:
Over the past week, Twitter has flagged dozens of tweets with factual information about covid-19 as misinformation and in some cases has suspended the accounts of doctors, scientists, and patient advocates in response to their posts warning people about the illness’s dangers.
Many of the tweets have since had the misinformation labels removed, and the suspended accounts have been restored […]
Some users received messages from Twitter apologizing for the mistake. “Our support team has reviewed your account and it appears we made an error,” one email reviewed by The Post said. “We’ve determined that the Tweet(s) is not in violation of our Covid-19 Misleading Information Policy that therefore your account should be restored to full functionality. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience and hope to see you back on Twitter soon.”
While the social network has corrected these errors, concerns have been expressed that this is precisely the sort of thing that feeds conspiracy theories.
“We know that when accurate information is labeled as false, people are less likely to think it’s accurate, even when it’s shown to be true,” said Emily Vraga, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota. She added that long-term misapplication of the label could also lead users to distrust Twitter’s misinformation systems entirely, rendering the label useless.
The piece cites a number of experts who say that this week was not an isolated incident, but has instead been happening for several months, at least.
Jack Dorsey regrets making Twitter a business
Founder Jack Dorsey says that he regrets making Twitter a company, even though he stands to receive almost a billion dollars if the sale to Musk goes through. He made the comment in response to a question about how he felt about how things had turned out.
The biggest issue and my biggest regret is that it became a company.
Asked what he would have wanted instead, he said that it has become clearer every day that it should be an internet protocol, like email, not an entity that can be owned by a company or a government.
Elon Musk gets minor court victory
Despite agreeing to waive his right to due diligence (i.e., checking that the company’s claims were true) in return for a speedy sale, Musk has subsequently claimed that Twitter misled him about the number of spam-bots. He subsequently demanded that the company hand over huge amounts of data, so that he could conduct his own analysis.
A court rejected Musk’s demand for three years’ worth of data on 200M accounts, but instead ordered Twitter to hand over data on the 9,000 accounts it reviewed to come up with its 5% bot figure.
More security investigations likely
Following claims by the company’s former head of security that there were “extreme, egregious deficiencies” in Twitter security, multiple investigations are underway.
The Senate Judiciary Committee has launched a US investigation, with separate ones announced in Ireland and France. Investigations in other countries are likely to follow.
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