Twitter launches reporting tool to curb misinformation during elections
Twitter on Wednesday unveiled a new reporting tool designed to prevent deliberate attempts to misinform voters.
As part of the social media company's efforts to curb election manipulation and interference, the tool allows users to flag posts with misleading information about, for example, how to register to vote or cast a ballot; voter identification requirements; or the date and time of an election.
The new tool arrives as social media companies are under continuing pressure to guard against disinformation and the spread of incendiary posts intended to divide segments of the public. During the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Russian operatives relied on every major social media platform to influence voters, spread false information and incite social divisions.
But such disinformation efforts have spread globally. Earlier this month, Facebook announced it had purged hundreds of pages and accounts designed to mislead voters in India ahead of national elections there. In Australia, election officials created a first-of-its-kind cybersecurity task force to limit misinformation on social media in the run up to the general election in May.
Election interference also spurred divisions during Europe's Brexit campaign. According to European officials, pro-Kremlin social media accounts amplified Russian messaging of an EU in disarray and sought to exploit political tensions within Western nations.
And while Russian disinformation campaigns have received sustained attention, researchers and social media platforms have identified other sources, including Saudi Arabia, Iran and India.
"The public conversation occurring on Twitter is never more important than during elections," Twitter said on its webpage. "Any attempts to undermine the integrity of our service is antithetical to our fundamental rights and undermines the core tenets of freedom of expression, the value upon which our company is based."
Twitter will launch the reporting tool on Thursday in India, where an estimated 900 million people are expected to cast votes from April 11 to May 19. The company said the tool will be available next week in the European Union, ahead of parliamentary elections in May, then rolled out worldwide throughout the year.
The announcement comes a day after Twitter's chief executive, Jack Dorsey, met with President Donald Trump to discuss "protecting the health of the public conversation ahead of the 2020 U.S. elections" among other matters. The private White House meeting was initiated by the president, whose daily tweets routinely spawn news headlines and fresh controversies.
The president has been an outspoken critic of the tech industry, alleging that Google, Facebook and Twitter censor conservative voices online - an allegation those companies fiercely deny - and has threatened to impose new regulations on them.
The president also took the opportunity Tuesday to complain that Twitter was playing "political games" and tampering with his nearly 60 million followers. But the company long has maintained that follower figures fluctuate as spam accounts are shut down. In the meeting, Dorsey stressed that point, noting that even he had lost followers as part of Twitter's efforts to enforce its policies, The Post reported.
This article was written by Hamza Shaban, a reporter for The Washington Post.