Covid-19: Twitter learns from FB's folly, changes content guidelines

News by Chandu Gopalakrishnan

Twitter released new content guidelines regarding Covid-19 tweets after Facebook’s AI fails to differentiate between verified content and spam

Days after social media platforms and their parent companies announced a joint effort to counter COVID-themed fraud and misinformation on their services, Twitter released new content guidelines regarding tweets on the pandemic.

However, the social media major has added a caveat that will not permanently suspend any accounts based suggestions by its automated enforcement systems.

“We want to be clear: while we work to ensure our systems are consistent, they can sometimes lack the context that our teams bring, and this may result in us making mistakes. As a result, we will not permanently suspend any accounts based solely on our automated enforcement systems,” read the announcement by Twitter’s legal, policy and trust & safety lead Vijaya Gadde and customers lead Matt Derella.

Jake Moore, cyber-security specialist at ESET, termed it “excellent advice” from Twitter.

“Hopefully, if there is anything good that can come out of this situation, it will be that people start to think before they tweet from now on. Incorrect advice can have incredibly damaging effects socially, but sometimes a crisis can bring about a tipping point where people begin to take social and online safety more seriously,” he said.

Coincidentally, the new guidelines comes after Facebook received universal flak for relying solely on its automated system to mark and remove posts linking to COVID-19-related articles.

Shortly after the joint announcement, many Facebook users started complaining that their Covid-related posts were marked as spam and hidden from public view, despite being fact-checked and shared from legitimate sources. Guy Rosen, vice president - integrity at Facebook, later attributed the trouble to a “bug in an anti-spam system” and it is unrelated to changes in its content moderator workforce.

Facebook has been struggling with its monitoring systems despite hiring more than 30,000 contract monitors. With the pandemic drastically reducing that workforce and AI failing to keep up, social media companies will struggle to flag and remove inappropriate content including fraud Covid-19 updates, reported Wired.

Authorities including the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), UK, have warned the public to be wary of cyber-criminals using the Coronavirus outbreak to launch online attacks. At this time, any disruption in the timely removal of Covid-related misinformation and spam poses a potential risk, noted Christoph Hebeisen, director - security intelligence research at Lookout.

“During times of crisis our human response is to seek out information, so attackers have learned to use this instinct against us. The ongoing response to Covid-19 has created an opportunity for alarming yet plausible ‘hooks’ that can be used by malicious actors in phishing attacks. Users need to be extra-vigilant for spear-phishing attacks that leverage our anxiety about this pandemic against us."

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