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COVID-19 misleading information policy

Overview

You may not use Twitter’s services to share false or misleading information about COVID-19 which may lead to harm. 

Even as scientific understanding of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to develop, we’ve observed the emergence of persistent conspiracy theories, alarmist rhetoric unfounded in research or credible reporting, and a wide range of unsubstantiated rumors, which left uncontextualized can prevent the public from making informed decisions regarding their health, and puts individuals, families and communities at risk.

Content that is demonstrably false or misleading and may lead to significant risk of harm (such as increased exposure to the virus, or adverse effects on public health systems) may not be shared on Twitter. This includes sharing content that may mislead people about the nature of the COVID-19 virus; the efficacy and/or safety of preventative measures, treatments, or other precautions to mitigate or treat the disease; official regulations, restrictions, or exemptions pertaining to health advisories; or the prevalence of the virus or risk of infection or death associated with COVID-19. In addition, we may label Tweets which share misleading information about COVID-19 to reduce their spread and provide additional context.

What is in violation of this policy?

In order for content related to COVID-19 to be labeled or removed under this policy, it must: 

  • advance a claim of fact, expressed in definitive terms; 
  • be demonstrably false or misleading, based on widely available, authoritative sources; and
  • be likely to impact public safety or cause serious harm.

This policy addresses 5 categories of misleading behavior and content:


False or misleading information about the nature of the virus.


We will label or remove false or misleading information about:

  • Transmission of the virus, such as false claims about asymptomatic spread, or false information about how it is transmitted indoors;
  • Susceptibility to the virus, for example claims that specific groups or people are more or less prone to be infected or to develop adverse symptoms on the basis of their nationality or religion;
  • Symptoms commonly associated with the virus, for example, misleading instructions on how to self-diagnose; 
  • The pandemic or COVID-19 vaccines that invoke a deliberate conspiracy by malicious and/or powerful forces.

False or misleading information about the efficacy and/or safety of preventative measures, treatments, or other precautions to mitigate or treat the disease. 

We will label or remove false or misleading information about: 

  • The safety or efficacy of treatments or preventative measures that are not approved by health authorities, or that are approved by health authorities but not safe to administer from home;
  • The sale or facilitation of medicines or drugs that require a prescription or physician consultation;
  • Adverse impacts or effects of receiving vaccinations, where these claims have been widely debunked; 
  • Vaccines and vaccination programs which suggest that COVID-19 vaccinations are part of a deliberate or intentional attempt to cause harm or control populations.

False or misleading information about official regulations, restrictions, or exemptions pertaining to health advisories.

We will label or remove false or misleading information about: 

  • Personal protective equipment (PPE) such as claims about the efficacy and safety of face masks to reduce viral spread; 
  • Preventative measures such as hand-washing, proper hygiene or sanitation methods, or social distancing; 
  • Local or national advisories or mandates pertaining to curfews, lockdowns, travel restrictions, quarantine protocols, innoculations, including exemptions from such advisories or mandates;
  • How vaccines are developed, tested, and approved by official health agencies as well as information about government recommendations.

False or misleading information about the prevalence of the virus, or risk of infection or death.

We will label or remove false or misleading information about: 

  • The prevalence of the virus or the disease, such as information pertaining to test results, hospitalizations, or mortality rates; 
  • The capacity of the public health system to cope with the crisis, for example false information about the availability of PPE, ventilators, or doctors, or about hospital capacity; 
  • Research findings (such as misrepresentations of or unsubstantiated conclusions about statistical data) used to advance a specific narrative that diminishes the significance of the disease.

False or misleading affiliation
You can’t create fake accounts which misrepresent their affiliation, or share content that falsely represents its affiliation to a medical practitioner, public health official or agency, research institution, or that falsely suggests expertise on COVID-19 issues.

What is not a violation of this policy?

We seek to protect robust, public debate about the response to COVID-19, and recognize that the state of scientific knowledge about certain aspects of the pandemic and public response to it (including the development of vaccines) is still relatively nascent. In the absence of other policy violations, the following are generally not in violation of this policy:

  • Strong commentary, opinions, and/or satire, provided these do not contain false or misleading assertions of fact.
  • Counterspeech. We allow for direct responses to misleading information which seek to undermine its impact by correcting the record, amplifying credible information, and educating the wider community about the prevalence and dynamics of misleading information.
  • Personal anecdotes or first-person accounts. 
  • Public debate about the advancement of COVID-19 science and research, including debate about research related to COVID-19, such as the effectiveness of treatments and mitigation measures, so long as the claims don’t misrepresent research findings.

Who can report violations of this policy?

Rather than in-product reports, we are enforcing this policy in close coordination with trusted partners, including public health authorities, NGOs and governments, and continue to use and consult with information from those sources when reviewing content.

Our Global Public Policy team has open lines of communication with relevant multinational stakeholders, including the World Health Organization, numerous government and public health organizations, and officials around the world, to ensure they can troubleshoot account issues, get their experts verified, and seek strategic counsel as they use the power of Twitter to mitigate harm.

What happens if you violate this policy?

The consequences for violating our COVID-19 misleading information policy depends on the severity and type of the violation and the account’s history of previous violations. The actions we take may include the following:

Tweet deletion 
The first time you violate this policy, we will require you to remove your Tweet. We will also may temporarily lock you out of your account before you can Tweet again.

Permanent suspension
The accumulation of multiple violations of this policy will result in suspension. Further, if we determine that an account is dedicated to Tweeting or promoting a particular misleading narrative (or set of narratives) about COVID-19, this would also be grounds for suspension.

If you believe that your account was locked or suspended in error, you can submit an appeal.

Labeling
In circumstances where we do not require the removal of content which violates this policy, we may provide additional context on Tweets sharing the content where they appear on Twitter. This means we may:

  • Apply a label and/or warning message to the Tweet
  • Show a warning to people before they share or like the Tweet;
  • Reduce the visibility of the Tweet on Twitter and/or prevent it from being recommended;
  • Turn off likes, replies, and Retweets; and/or
  • Provide a link to additional explanations or clarifications, such as in a curated landing page or relevant Twitter policies.

In most cases, we will take all of the above actions on Tweets we label. In some instances, we’ll also turn off your ability to reply, Retweet, or like the Tweet. We prioritize curating landing pages with the latest information in cases where misleading content on Twitter is gaining significant attention and has caused public confusion on our service.

Additional resources

Learn more about our work to fight misleading information about COVID-19 here, and our expanded approach to COVID-19 vaccine misleading information here.

Learn more about our range of enforcement options and our approach to policy development and enforcement.

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