ELECTION INTERFERENCE: Twitter Slows Down Retweets Ahead of U.S. Election


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Twitter Slows Down Retweets Ahead of U.S. Election

Social-media company to make sweeping changes to how posts are shared including making it harder for certain content to go viral

The moves are among the boldest yet for Twitter and are designed to slow the spread of misinformation.
Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg News
By: Georgia Wells, WSJ, Oct. 9, 2020 12:31 pm ET

Twitter will make it harder for posts to go viral ahead of the U.S. election, including by putting limits on how users can retweet.

The moves unveiled Friday, which also include pointing users viewing certain tweets to credible content, are among the boldest yet for the social-media platform and are designed to slow the spread of misinformation.

Where users previously hit a button to reshare, or “retweet,” items, they will now be directed to a screen that will encourage adding commentary before resharing posts. If users don’t write anything, their post will still appear as a traditional retweet—but the change “adds some extra friction” in the process, according to a company blog post.
Twitter’s new feature includes this prompt on disputed information
Photo: Twitter

Twitter will start experimenting with this change for some users later on Friday and will roll it out to all users Oct. 20. The change will last at least through the end of the week of the U.S. election.

“We hope it will encourage everyone to not only consider why they are amplifying a tweet, but also increase the likelihood that people add their own thoughts,” Twitter’s legal, policy, trust and safety head Vijaya Gadde and product lead Kayvon Beykpour wrote in a blog post Friday.

Social-media companies have been scrambling to clamp down on potential confusion and ways their platforms can be abused to undermine the integrity of the political process in the U.S.

Facebook Inc. FB +0.12% has said it would suspend all political advertising after the polls close Nov. 3, something that other platforms including Twitter and TikTok have already implemented, and many platforms, including Facebook and Twitter, have taken steps to ban QAnon, the fast-growing conspiracy movement.

Twitter has conducted prior experiments to encourage users to read articles before sharing them on the site.

Additionally, Twitter plans to display a new prompt that provides credible information when users attempt to retweet a post that Twitter has identified as containing misleading information. This change starts next week.

Twitter currently labels tweets that contain misleading information about Covid-19 and U.S. elections, among other items. Tweets that receive these labels are de-amplified in Twitter’s algorithm, and the company, in some cases, will remove these tweets.

Twitter said Friday a subset of the tweets that receive misinformation labels will be made harder for users to share and feature a suggestion that users add their own context before reposting them. These new warnings will apply to tweets that are labeled as containing misinformation and posted by users who have outsized influence on the platform, such as U.S. political figures and U.S.-based users with more than 100,000 followers.
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In a bid to slow down tweets from spreading, Twitter said it plans to tweak its algorithm to stop tweets from appearing in the feeds of users simply because other users are engaging with them. Currently, the tweets that users see is typically arranged via an algorithm that includes content from the accounts that the user follows, as well as tweets that other users like or follow.

Other changes are designed to add more context, rather than slow, the spread of content. Twitter said it will only surface topics in its personalized trending topics tab for users in the U.S. if they include an explanation. This change will require Twitter’s curators to review the trending topics more closely—and add descriptions of links to articles for the items that are included.

Twitter’s list of trending topics has come under scrutiny for promoting content at times stemming from misinformation campaigns intended to make certain ideas appear more popular than they really are.

Twitter also said the company plans to label any tweets that falsely claim a win for any candidate and remove tweets that encourage violence or call for people to interfere with polling places or election results. To determine the results of an election in the U.S., the company said it will require either an announcement from state election officials or a public projection from at least two authoritative, national news outlets that make independent election calls.

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