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Twitter clumsily fact-checks '5G corona' tweets

It might be a little too cautious.
Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
June 8, 2020
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SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JULY 26:  A sign is posted on the exterior of Twitter headquarters on July 26, 2018 in San Francisco, California. Twitter is expected to announce strong second quarter earnings on Friday.  (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Twitter is getting more aggressive with the use its fact-checking label — it might even be hard to avoid the label in some cases. Business Insider and others have noticed that Twitter is displaying a “get the facts on COVID-19” link underneath seemingly any tweet that mention 5G and the new coronavirus, whether or not the person is endorsing the conspiracy theories linking the two. It’ll even apply the link to “5G corona” discussions. Twitter was already removing tweets that incited cell tower attacks and had talked about applying fact check labels in May, but it’s now using the labels very, very broadly.

If you tap the link, Twitter directs you to a thread debunking the junk science behind the theories with references to news stories, official sources and tweets.

Twitter told Engadget that its labels are an “iterative process” and that it was focusing on tweets mentioning 5G and COVID-19 for now. The company also acknowledged that it might make mistakes, and that it would refine its process over time. You can read the official statement below.

The fact checks could get irksome with this kind of ubiquity, and might desensitize the people who most need to see them. They’re certainly not very bold. At the same time, this at least shows that Twitter is using checks more freely, and might catch misinformation peddlers who otherwise slip through the cracks.

“Labeling or placing a warning on Tweets continues to be an iterative process.  Given the global spread of misinformation and disputed claims around 5G and COVID-19, we prioritized labeling tweets with that information. Our team is currently reviewing other types of content and will label additional tweets soon.”

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