(Reuters) – Twitter said it would apply warnings to tweets that contain misleading information about COVID-19 vaccines and implement a strike system of enforcement that could see users permanently banned for repeat violations.
The social media network started promoting public health information before COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic. It also aimed to remove demonstrably false or misleading content about the virus that had the highest risk of causing harm.
Since introducing its COVID-19 guidance, it said it had removed more than 8,400 tweets and challenged 11.5 million accounts.
With more and more people now looking for authoritative public health information about vaccines as programs were rolled out across the world, it said it would expand the guidance.
Katy Minshall, Twitter’s head of UK public policy, said the company recognised the role it played in giving people credible public health information.
“We continue to work with health authorities around the world – including (Britain’s health service) the NHS – to ensure high visibility access to trusted and accurate public health information on our service, including about COVID-19 vaccines,” she told Reuters.
“Today we will begin applying labels to tweets that may contain misleading information about COVID-19 vaccines, in addition to our continued efforts to remove the most harmful COVID-19 misleading information from the service.”
She said the approach built on existing work to guard against false claims about the safety and effectiveness of inoculation.
Vaccines are at the centre of government plans to fight the pandemic that has caused more than 2.6 million deaths to date.
There have been concerns, however, that public distrust of the shots could jeopardize the success of vaccination programs.
Surveys and data show varying levels of willingness to receive a shot according to country and demographic group.
In Britain, where more than a third of adults have received at least one vaccine shot, authorities are working to overcome hesitancy among some ethnic groups.
Twitter Inc said on Thursday it expects to double its annual revenue to at least $7.5 billion in 2023.
The social media network said in a filing it has set a goal to “double the number features shipped per employee” to help grow revenue or the number of users.
The company expects to reach at least 315 million monetizable daily active users (mDAU) by the fourth quarter of 2023.
Twitter defines mDAU as the number of daily users who can view ads.
The company’s shares were up nearly 8% in trading before the bell.
Twitter has rapidly added new features over the past several months. It acquired newsletter startup Revue last month, and began testing “Spaces,” an audio chat-room feature similar to viral voice-based app Clubhouse.
Chief Executive Jack Dorsey said earlier this month that Twitter would explore launching content subscriptions and letting users receive tip payments from followers.
The company is set to hold a virtual investor day later on Thursday.
India announced new rules on Thursday to regulate big social media firms, such as Facebook and Twitter, the latest effort by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to tighten control over Big Tech firms.
The rules come after Twitter ignored orders to drop content on farmers’ protests, fuelling the goverment’s zeal, dating from 2018, to clamp down on material it regards as disinformation or unlawful.
The new measures will require big social media companies to set up a grievance redressal mechanism and appoint executives to coordinate with law enforcement, the government said in a news statement.
The government said the guidelines in its code of digital media ethics were needed to hold social media and other companies accountable for misuse and abuse.
Social media firms should be “more responsible and accountable,” Ravi Shankar Prasad, the minister for information technology, told reporters in outlining the rules.
A detailed version of the guidelines is to be published later and take effect three months after that, the government said. It did not specify the date, however.
Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment, while Twitter declined to comment.
On Wednesday, Reuters reported the draft of the rules, which give companies a maximum of 36 hours to remove content after they receive a government or legal order.
Prasad also told reporters the rules would oblige the companies to reveal the originator of a message or posting when asked to do so through a legal order.
Tech firms are coming under tighter scrutiny worldwide. Facebook faced a global backlash last week from publishers and politicians after it blocked news feeds in Australia in a dispute with the government over revenue-sharing.
That prompted last-ditch changes by Australia in a law passed on Thursday to ensure Alphabet Inc’s Google and Facebook Inc pay media companies for content, a step that nations such as Britain and Canada want to follow.
India’s rules will also require video streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime to classify content into five categories based on users’ age, the government said.
(Reuters) – The chief executives of Facebook Inc, Alphabet Inc and Twitter will testify before a U.S. House panel on March 25 on “misinformation and disinformation plaguing online platforms.”
A pair of House Energy and Commerce subcommittees will hold a fully remote joint hearing including Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Google CEO Sundar Pichai, and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey.
“Whether it be falsehoods about the COVID-19 vaccine or debunked claims of election fraud, these online platforms have allowed misinformation to spread, intensifying national crises with real-life, grim consequences for public health and safety,” said Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone and the chairs of the two subcommittees in a joint statement.
A supermarket chain’s PR chief has been sacked after comments about Wales, its language and the UK Celtic nations.
Keith Hann was dismissed by frozen food specialists Iceland “with immediate effect” after remarks on Twitter.
Further comments on a personal blog also emerged, describing the Welsh language as “incomprehensible” and “gibberish”.
Iceland is based in north Wales, and said the comments did not reflect their values.
An official at Iceland apologised for any upset or offence caused by the comments.
The BBC has attempted to contact Mr Hann to respond.
His latest controversial post on Twitter commented on the TV star Amanda Holden being accused of breaching lockdown rules by travelling to Cornwall.
“Your periodic reminder that the inhabitants of the UK’s Celtic fringe loath ALL visitors, in and out of lockdown,” he said.
His social media account was later made private, with his profile stating: “All views my own and usually joking”.
The account has since been deleted.
Further posts in a personal blog called Bloke in the North then emerged.
In one, dating back to 2009, he reflected: “I suppose as a last resort we could always move a couple of miles west so that I could legitimately call myself Bloke in the North (of Wales), with the (of Wales) being silent.
“The price for this, if we sent the baby to a state school, would be having part of his education conducted in gibberish. But I dare say that Welsh would prove no more incomprehensible and useless to him than trigonometry and algebra did to me in my day.”
In another, he referred to Welsh signage in supermarkets as “incomprehensible” and described it as “a dead language that sounds uncannily like someone with bad catarrh clearing his throat”.
Announcing Mr Hann’s departure, Iceland said in a statement: “Iceland has taken action in light of recent comments made by its director of corporate affairs, resulting in the dismissal of Mr Hann with immediate effect.
The firm, whose headquarters are on Deeside in Flintshire, added: “We would like to reiterate that these comments in no way reflect the values or philosophy of our business.
“We are a proud Welsh company, with a long history of investment in communities across Wales, and apologise for any upset or offence caused.”
TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan’s recently appointed vaccine tsar, Taro Kono, is having a breakout moment.
Twitter-savvy and educated at Georgetown University in Washington, Kono has seen his popularity surge even as the government of his boss, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, has been battered by criticism over its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Two recent opinion polls have favoured Kono, who is also the minister for administrative reform, to be the next prime minister. As Japan launches its much awaited COVID-19 vaccination campaign, his role as the logistics head of the programme has thrust him even more firmly into the spotlight.
Part of Kono’s attraction, in a nation known for wooden, script-following leaders, is his ability to engage directly with voters through social media, a sharp contrast to Suga, who has been criticised for seeming stiff and aloof from voters.
In recent weeks, Kono, 58, has used Twitter to publish videos on vaccine safety, repost memes and address media reports. He frequently responds directly to followers – 2.2 million on his Japanese account and 50,000 for his English one.
Last week he posted about conferences with governors over the coronavirus, and a black mask embroidered with a dinosaur skull he had worn the previous day.
But for all his appeal to voters and a resume that includes foreign and defence minister, some in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which he would lead as premier, are wary.
“He speaks English, he’s smart, he’s got a media presence, and he uses social media, so that’s kind of appealing,” said Scott Seaman, Asia director at the Eurasia Group in Washington. “But he would still have to run the LDP. And that’s a skill.”
Given the LDP’s majority in parliament, its leader is virtually guaranteed the premiership. Only two LDP presidents have failed to be premier during brief spells when the party was out of power – including Kono’s father, Yohei.
Some say his father’s being denied the top job may have helped feed the son’s ambition for the post.
Kono declined a direct answer on Tuesday about whether he could work with the party if he became premier, with his current job a possible step towards that end.
“My job is the health of the Japanese people, let’s not politicise this job,” he told a news conference. “It’s too important to politicise.”
Some in the LDP feel he is too young, given the average age since 2000 for premiers to take office is roughly 62. But their concerns also include his lone-wolf character in a land that runs on consensus, as well as an outspoken streak and occasional divergence from the standard line.
Last month Kono told Reuters that “anything is possible” regarding the Tokyo Olympics, breaking with government vows that the Games, already postponed once, will open as planned in July.
Last year, as defence minister, he suddenly cancelled deployment of the U.S.-made Aegis Ashore missile defence system without consulting others beforehand, a move that an LDP official said may have angered key ally the United States.
“I wonder if he can build a good relationship with the U.S. as a result,” said the official, who asked not to be named given the sensitivity of the issue.
The faction-ridden LDP could prove difficult to run. Its tolerance of mavericks such as the wildly popular Junichiro Koizumi, premier from 2001 to 2006, has diminished in recent years, said political commentator Atsuo Ito.
“His bluntness will likely go over well with voters, but I’m not sure how well it’d work running a big organisation,” added Ito.
Kono’s popularity, though, may prove hard for the LDP to resist and was likely part of Suga’s calculus in putting him in charge of the vaccine rollout, to gain some support himself, political analysts said, although they wondered if Suga was also trying to neutralise a political rival.
With a general election looming by October and the LDP chief’s term expiring in September, putting Kono in the top job could bring big benefits for LDP candidates. But pitfalls remain, including Japan’s rollout of the coronavirus vaccine.
“This is a gamble,” the LDP official said. “If the vaccine doesn’t go as planned, it’s the end for both Suga and Kono.”
(Reuters) – Twitter Inc said on Thursday it will next week add labels to identify more state-affiliated accounts, including world leaders’ personal accounts, to give users more context for geopolitical conversations on the platform.
The move comes as Twitter’s approach to prominent figures and government is under scrutiny after the high-profile ban of former U.S. President Donald Trump’s account and as political firestorms have raged in Myanmar and India.
In August, Twitter said it would start labeling the accounts of state-affiliated media outlets such as Russia’s Sputnik and China’s Xinhua News and of some key government officials for the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council: China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Twitter said in a blog post that it was expanding its labels to key government officials and institutions that were “the voice of the nation state abroad” from G7 countries and a majority of countries where Twitter has identified what it deems state-linked information operations.
Mock-ups of the labels shared by Twitter said “US Government organization” or “US Government official.”
Asked how Twitter would determine government labels in situations such as Myanmar where the military recently seized power in a coup, Twitter’s global public policy director, Nick Pickles, said the company was not labeling countries where government was in dispute.
“We will take into account the international discussion about legitimacy of the government when we are considering if it’s appropriate to apply these labels,” Pickles said in an interview.
The labels will only be added to verified accounts, Pickles said. For example, in Iran that would mean that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei would not currently get a label because he is not verified, though the foreign minister would.
The new countries where senior officials and institutions will be labeled are: Canada, Cuba, Ecuador, Egypt, Germany, Honduras, Indonesia, Iran, Italy, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Spain, Thailand, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates.
Twitter will also label the personal accounts of heads of state from these countries and the U.N. Security Council permanent members, citing the use of these accounts for diplomacy.
The company has faced international scrutiny over its approach to world leaders’ accounts. In January it banned Trump after the Capitol riot for tweets – sent from his personal @realDonaldTrump account – that it said risked inciting violence.
Twitter has generally exempted world leaders’ rule-breaking content from removal because it deems their posts in the public interest, instead adding warning notices and reducing the content’s reach. Pickles said the way Twitter enforced its rules on accounts would not be based on these labels.
(Reuters) – India’s technology minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Thursday warned U.S. social media firms to abide by the country’s laws, a day after a face-off between Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration and Twitter over content regulation.
Speaking in Parliament on Thursday, IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad called out Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and WhatsApp by name and said they were welcome to operate in India, but only if they play by India’s rules.
“You will have to follow the Constitution of India, you will have to abide by the laws of India,” said Prasad.
India rebuked Twitter on Wednesday after the U.S. social media giant refused to fully comply with a government order to take down over 1,100 accounts and posts which New Delhi claims spread misinformation about the farmer protests against new agriculture reforms.
Twitter said it had not blocked all of the content because it believed the directives were not in line with Indian laws.
That prompted censure from India’s tech ministry and calls from politicians to urge their followers to join Twitter’s home-grown local rival, Koo.
Billionaire investor Steve Cohen, seen by small investors as an enemy in the GameStop stock drama this week, deleted his Twitter account because of what he said were threats against him and his family, a spokeswoman said on Saturday.
“I’m going to take a break for now,” Cohen said on Twitter late on Friday, citing “personal threats.” His account no longer appeared on Saturday, and a spokeswoman for Cohen’s Point72 Asset Management confirmed it was closed.
The small investors, connected on social media, mobilized to take on institutional short sellers of GameStop and other shares, sparking a short squeeze that sent those stock prices surging. The details of Cohen’s holdings were not disclosed, so it was unclear if he was a short seller.
However, Cohen’s Point72 and Citadel LLC gave a capital infusion to Melvin Capital, a fund that held a large short position in GameStop, enabling it to close out that position with a large loss and survive.
Cohen, who previously used Twitter largely to engage with fans of the New York Mets baseball team after he bought a majority stake last year, was among fund managers who received threats as the GameStop saga unfolded.
On Thursday, Cohen got into a heated debate with blogger Dave Portnoy, who founded the sports and pop culture blog Barstool Sports. Cohen, worth roughly $14 billion, tweeted, “Hey Dave, What’s your beef with me. I’m just trying to make a living just like you.”
Point72 lost between 10% and 15% in value since the start of the year to the middle of the week, people familiar with the numbers said.