Twitter Can Cut Misinformation in Half With These New Measures

One of the biggest problems that the world has been facing over the past few years is that of misinformation, with the 2016 US presidential election first highlighting this issue and the coronavirus pandemic breaking it into a much bigger spotlight. Social media platforms have become hubs for misinformation, and many companies operating in the field are struggling to mitigate the spread of fake news on their platforms in order to keep the facts straight for their users.

A group of experts at the University of Washington collaborated to conduct a study that revealed a few measures that Twitter could take to reduce misinformation and viral fake news by as much 53.4%. One such measure that Twitter could take would be to deplatform users that repeatedly and intentionally try to send misinformation to their followers. Creating warning prompts for tweets that might contain information can also be useful, as would adopting a proactive approach for removing fake news whenever it is detected.

Any one of these steps could dramatically improve the quality of information that user would gain access to on Twitter, but in spite of the fact that this is the case their results would be orders of magnitude more significant if they are implemented in tandem with one another. With all of that having been said and now out of the way, it is important to note that even the US Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy, said that misinformation is becoming a real threat to the public health of Americans which makes these steps all the more important.

Twitter has been having a tough time reducing misinformation, especially with major public figures like Elon Musk pressuring the platform to adopt an approach that safeguards freedom of speech. However, freedom of speech that is entirely unrestricted can have a negative effect with all things having been considered and taken into account. It can allow users to say anything without facing repercussions or consequences, and that will only increase misinformation which has already gotten so rife on virtually every social media platform out there.

This research involved an analysis of around 23 million tweets that were posted between the 1st of September and the 15th of December during 2020 which is the year when the last US presidential election occurred. The researchers then put this data into a contagion model similar to what is used by virologists to predict how far a particular piece of fake news would be able to spread.

The most concerning aspect of social media is that users often react to a news story based just on the headline. There is also a real lack of double checking news sources, and this often leads users to believe anything that they are shown. Educating users about how to discern real news from fake news is important, but social media platforms still need to play their part by reducing the occurrence of misinformation.

All three methods must be tried out, since the harm that misinformation is doing is too severe. Failing to act quickly may result in some dire consequences down the line which would be harmful for public health as well as the cultural progress of our civilization.

Read next: 69% Journalists Prefer Twitter as Their Platform of Choice According to This Study
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