From tomorrow users in India can report tweets they believe are trying to mislead voters — such as disinformation related to the date or location of polling stations; or fake claims about identity requirements for being able to vote — by tapping on the arrow menu of the suspicious tweet and selecting the ‘report tweet’ option and then choosing: ‘It’s misleading about voting’.
Twitter says the tool will go live for the Indian Lok Sabha elections from tomorrow, and will launch in all European Union member states on April 29 — ahead of elections for the EU parliament next month.
The ‘misleading about voting’ option will persist in the list of available choices for reporting tweets for seven days after each election ends, Twitter said in a blog post announcing the feature.
It also said it intends to the vote-focused feature to be rolled out to “other elections globally throughout the rest of the year”, without providing further detail on which elections and markets it will prioritize for getting the tool.
“Our teams have been trained and we recently enhanced our appeals process in the event that we make the wrong call,” Twitter added.
In recent months the European Commission has been ramping up pressure on tech platforms to scrub disinformation ahead of elections to the EU parliament — issuing monthly reports on progress, or, well, the lack of it.
This follows a Commission initiative last year which saw major tech and ad platforms — including Facebook, Google and Twitter — sign up to a voluntary Code of Practice on disinformation, committing themselves to take some non-prescribed actions to disrupt the ad revenues of disinformation agents and make political ads more transparent on their platforms.
Another strand of the Code looks to have directly contributed to the development of Twitter’s new ‘misleading about voting’ report option — with signatories committing to:
- Empower consumers to report disinformation and access different news sources, while improving the visibility and findability of authoritative content;
In the latest progress report on the Code, which was published by the Commission yesterday but covers steps taken by the platforms in March 2019, it noted some progress made — but said it’s still not enough.
“Further technical improvements as well as sharing of methodology and data sets for fake accounts are necessary to allow third-party experts, fact-checkers and researchers to carry out independent evaluation,” EC commissioners warned in a joint statement.
In the case of Twitter the company was commended for having made political ad libraries publicly accessible but criticized (along with Google) for not doing more to improve transparency around issue-based advertising.
“It is regrettable that Google and Twitter have not yet reported further progress regarding transparency of issue-based advertising, meaning issues that are sources of important debate during elections,” the Commission said.
It also reported that Twitter had provided figures on actions undertaken against spam and fake accounts but had failed to explain how these actions relate to activity in the EU.
“Twitter did not report on any actions to improve the scrutiny of ad placements or provide any metrics with respect to its commitments in this area,” it also noted.
The EC says it will assess the Code’s initial 12-month period by the end of 2019 — and take a view on whether it needs to step in and propose regulation to control online disinformation. (Something which some individual EU Member States are already doing, albeit with a focus on hate speech and/or online safety.)