Twitter Launches Five-Strike System to Ban Users Who Spread Covid-19 Lies

Twitter Launches Five-Strike System to Ban Users Who Spread Covid-19 Lies
Austin Beutner, Superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), receives the covid-19 vaccine on March 1, 2021 in Inglewood, California. (Photo: Patrick T. Fallon, Getty Images)
To sign up for our daily newsletter covering the latest news, features and reviews, head HERE. For a running feed of all our stories, follow us on Twitter HERE. Or you can bookmark the Gizmodo Australia homepage to visit whenever you need a news fix.

Twitter will ban users who spread misinformation about the coronavirus pandemic and covid-19 vaccines under a new five-strike system, according to a new blog post from the social media company. Twitter bans all medical information that’s “demonstrably false or misleading and may lead to significant risk of harm.”

“Through the use of the strike system, we hope to educate people on why certain content breaks our rules so they have the opportunity to further consider their behaviour and their impact on the public conversation,” Twitter’s Safety Team wrote on Monday.

“Individuals will be notified directly when a label or required Tweet removal results in additional account-level enforcement. Repeated violations of the COVID-19 policy are enforced against on the basis of the number of strikes an account has accrued for violations of the policy,” the blog post continued.

Twitter’s five-strike policy will be enforced starting today, as the company explains:

  • One strike: no account-level action

  • Two strikes: 12-hour account lock

  • Three strikes: 12-hour account lock

  • Four strikes: 7-day account lock

  • Five or more strikes: permanent suspension

Twitter’s new five-strike policy comes after the company announced in December that it would be taking new actions to “protect the public conversation” around covid-19, a disease that has infected over 28.6 million Americans and killed more than 516,000, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Twitter says it’s removed over 8,400 tweets with covid-19 misinformation since December and the company will be using both human moderators and machines to track tweets that violate the Twitter rules.

“Machine-learning and automated language processing takes time to be effective. As such, we will begin with English-language content first and use this same process as we work to expand to other languages and cultural contexts over time,” Twitter said in its blog post Monday.

Systems of “strikes” have been used by platforms like YouTube as a way to regulate behaviour by making sure that people understand what rules they’ve broken and are given fair warning before they’re banished forever.

One of the major criticisms of Facebook and Twitter over the years has been the lack of transparency around why certain users have been banned and others have not. For instance, David Duke, a former Grand Wizard of the KKK, was allowed to stay on the platform for 11 years before he was finally banned. And it’s not clear what finally did it.

Vaccines are currently being rolled out to millions of Americans, raising hopes that life will soon return to normal, or some version of normal that resembles something like the year 2019, before the pandemic hit. Roughly 15% of Americans have received at least one dose of the covid-19 vaccine, according to NPR, a tremendously positive sign for the future.

Will Twitter roll out something like a five-strikes policy for other infractions beyond covid-19 misinformation? That part is unclear. But, if you ask us, it’s a great idea.