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Twitter is unable to contain "superspreaders" of coronavirus misinformation on its platform. This emerges from research in which dozens of posts are shared by high profile accounts that appear to violate the rules of the social media company.
Tech companies such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube have introduced new guidelines to stem the so-called infodemic of false coronavirus information that the Internet has captured in the past few weeks amid panic and national locks.
However, a NewsGuard report that monitors and rates news websites for trust found several posts from accounts on Twitter with 100,000 or more followers, some of which were verified. This has led to misinformation about questionable treatments or remedies that appear to violate recent guidelines to ban such content.
There have also been numerous posts promoting conspiracy theories – such as linking 5G technology to the corona virus – although in most cases they don't violate Twitter's rules.
All but one contribution, which was passed on to a common following of more than 3 million people in 10 productive misinformation spreaders, remains active on the platform, according to NewsGuard.
Social media sites have been trying to curb health misinformation that experts claim is life-threatening, as conspiracy theorists known for the spread of vaccination and extreme-right tales have drawn their attention to the pandemic.
Regardless, more than 100 senior doctors and global health professionals – including the former National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases and CDC officials – published a full-page letter in the New York Times on Thursday asking the leaders of major technology groups to "stop" Give oxygen ”for the“ tsunami ”with poor content.
"We urge technology giants to immediately take systemic measures to curb the flow of health misinformation and the resulting public health crisis," the letter said, calling on groups to include such content in the feeds of the Demote users and provide "retroactive" corrections to users who have seen malicious errors.
While Facebook has been criticized for not doing enough, Twitter has been a particular straggler. A fact-finding study at Oxford University between January and March found that around 60 percent of the false claims remained online on the platform, compared to 27 percent and 24 percent on YouTube and Facebook, respectively.
According to the NewsGuard report, a Twitter account with 125,000 followers and links to the far-right conspiracy group QAnon has tweeted fake studies claiming that hydroxychloroquine has a 100% treatment success rate. Other accounts advocate chlorine dioxide, licorice root, and zinc as a cure for the virus, and also violate Twitter's policies that prohibit the promotion of ineffective treatments.
Twitter personality Martin Geddes cited a blog that he said social distancing was "ineffective", while well-known conspiracy theorist David Icke, who was excluded from Facebook last week, posted that the virus was a scam.
In response to requests for comments, Mr. Geddes told NewsGuard that "citing a line from an article is not equivalent to promoting the idea," while Mr. Icke accused the researchers of censorship, the report said.
Gordon Crovitz, co-founder of NewsGuard, called for more transparency about the moderation processes of the social media platform and the proactive "debunking" of incorrect information, for example by identifying questionable websites. Social media groups "randomly take accounts, which arouses the conspiracy … they play a slap on the mole without proper equipment," he said.
Twitter said it has removed more than 2,400 tweets since its new corona virus content policy was introduced on March 18. While the group does not use fact checkers, it has both manual and automated moderation mechanisms.
It added that it "prioritizes removal when there is a call to action that could potentially cause harm," but "does not take enforcement action on every tweet that contains incomplete or controversial information about COVID-19."
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