Twitter has launched new warning labels on false and misleading tweets in an effort to make them less confusing and more effective.
Brooke Erin Duffy, professor of communication, is an expert on social media platforms and studies the intersection of media, culture and technology.
“Amid what may be considered a second-wave ‘techlash,’ U.S. platform companies seem to be ramping up efforts to govern users and content alike. Given that Facebook/Metaverse are seemingly under a high-powered microscope, Twitter’s announcement about its more robust mechanism of labeling misinformation could be read as defensive strategy.
“But while protecting users against potentially false or misleading information is a laudable goal, the labelling system continues to put the onus on consumers of information. And much like other forms of self-governance, it allows the platform company to avoid regulatory interference from external stakeholders – most especially the government.
“Moreover, this new system is unlikely to deter certain users – conspiracy theorists, for example – from sharing the identified content.”
Jonas Juul is a postdoctoral researcher in Cornell’s Center for Applied Mathematics. Findings from his recently published research indicate that viral, true tweets spread just as fast, wide and deep as viral untrue tweets – changing the prevailing assumption that untruths on Twitter move faster. He says efforts to counter misinformation must reduce users’ impulse to retweet false content.
“Our recent research indicates that false and true news spreads similarly on Twitter. False news, however, seems to be more infectious. Efforts to limit the spread of misinformation therefore must counter this higher infectiousness and reduce users’ impulse to retweet false content. Marking false information or asking people to consider the accuracy of what they are about to retweet could be effective in this respect.
“If it is effective, our research suggests that it would not only reduce the reach of the misinformation on Twitter, but also the speed, depth and breadth of the propagation of the misinformation on Twitter.
“Tagging false content, however, cannot replace careful content moderation. Tagging false or misleading information is just one tool to curb the spread of misinformation.”
William Schmidt is a professor of operations, technology and information management at the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business. He says Twitter is a leader among their peers in their work to limit the spread of false information on their platform.
“It is very encouraging that Twitter continues to work at limiting the spread of false information on their platform. In many ways, they are a leader among their peers in this regard. Social media platforms are a channel for false information. Those platforms must now live their ethos and take effective action to disrupt the spread of false information.
“Not all of Twitter’s interventions will be successful, and the company will receive criticism no matter what they do. I am confident, however, that Twitter has the tools and talent to measure the effectiveness of their interventions and make the necessary course corrections to improve effectiveness over time. This process of testing, learning, and course correcting is, after all, a core competency for most platforms. My hope is that the old mantra ‘move quickly and break things’ can be transformed into ‘move quickly and fix things.’”