Twitter to remove harmful fake news about coronavirus

Site changes rules to ban content aimed at making people act against official advice

Twitter will remove tweets that run the risk of causing harm by spreading dangerous misinformation about Covid-19, the company has said, after weeks of criticism that its policies on misinformation were too lax.

Now, the social network says, it will be applying a new broader definition of harm to address content that “goes directly against guidance from authoritative sources of global and local public health information”.

Denial of health authority recommendations “with the intent to influence people into acting against recommended guidance”, like encouraging people not to socially distance themselves.

Description of treatments that are not immediately harmful but are known to be ineffective, even if made in jest, “such as ‘coronavirus is not heat-resistant – walking outside is enough to disinfect you” or “use aromatherapy and essential oils to prevent Covid-19.”

Description of harmful treatments such as “drinking bleach will cure Covid-19”.

Specific and unverified claims that incite people to action and cause widespread panic, such as: “The National Guard just announced that no more shipments of food will be arriving for 2 months – run to the grocery store ASAP and buy everything!”

Claims that specific groups or nationalities are never susceptible, or are more susceptible, to Covid-19.

False or misleading claims on how to differentiate between Covid-19 and a different disease, and if that information attempts to definitively diagnose someone, such as “if you have a wet cough, it’s not coronavirus – but a dry cough is” or “you’ll feel like you’re drowning in snot if you have coronavirus – it’s not a normal runny nose”.

Related: Russian media ‘spreading Covid-19 disinformation’

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