Twitter to label disputed COVID-19 tweets

FILE - This April 26, 2017, file photo shows the Twitter app icon on a mobile phone in Philadelphia. Twitter announced Monday, May 11, 2020, it will warn users with a label when a tweet contains disputed or misleading information about the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)
FILE - This April 26, 2017, file photo shows the Twitter app icon on a mobile phone in Philadelphia. Twitter announced Monday, May 11, 2020, it will warn users with a label when a tweet contains disputed or misleading information about the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File) (Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

CHICAGO – Twitter announced Monday it will start alerting users when a tweet makes disputed or misleading claims about the coronavirus.

The new rule is the latest in a wave of stricter policies that tech companies are rolling out to confront an outbreak of virus-related misinformation on their sites. Facebook and Google, which owns YouTube, have already put similar systems in place.

The announcement signals that Twitter is taking its role in amplifying misinformation more seriously. But how the platform enforces its new policy will be the real test, with company leaders already tamping down expectations.

Yoel Roth, Twitter’s head of site integrity, acknowledged as much: “We will not be able to take enforcement action on every tweet with incomplete or disputed information about COVID-19.”

Roth said Monday the platform has historically applied a “lighter touch" when enforcing similar policies on misleading tweets but said the company is working to improve the technology around the labels.

In February, Twitter said it would add warning labels to doctored or manipulated photos and videos after a recording of Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was slowed down to make it appear as though she slurred her words. But even with obviously fake videos, such as one showing Joe Biden lolling his tongue and grinning that was shared by President Donald Trump, the company has since used the label only twice, in part because of technical glitches.

And Twitter has not added any warning labels to politicians' tweets that violate its policies but are deemed in the “public interest” under a policy the company announced in June 2019.

Under the newest COVID-19 rules, Twitter will decide which tweets are labeled — only taking down posts if they are harmful.