Twitter to promote official information on Covid-19 vaccines

Social media giant links with HSE in bid to curb the spread of misinformation online

Twitter is to take action to give prominence to credible public health information about Covid-19 vaccines for Irish users. File photograph: Glenn Chapman/AFP via Getty Images

Twitter is to take action to give prominence to credible public health information about Covid-19 vaccines for Irish users. File photograph: Glenn Chapman/AFP via Getty Images

Your Web Browser may be out of date. If you are using Internet Explorer 9, 10 or 11 our Audio player will not work properly.
For a better experience use Google Chrome, Firefox or Microsoft Edge.

 

Twitter is to take action in partnership with the Health Service Executive (HSE) to give prominence to credible public health information about Covid-19 vaccines for people searching the topic on the platform.

Those searching for vaccine-related facts via the social media platform will be directed towards dedicated HSE materials, in a move designed to curb the spread of misinformation online.

When someone in Ireland searches for certain keywords associated with the vaccinations on Twitter, they will get a visual prompt directing them to the HSE’s dedicated webpage on the issue. The prompt will appear at the top of the person’s Twitter search results.

The tool builds on previous work by the platform with the HSE aimed at countering disinformation about vaccines generally, and about Covid-19 during the pandemic, and earlier work focused on election disinformation and “deep fakes” online.

The keywords that trigger the prominent official health service information are based on suggestions from the Department of Health and the HSE, which are constantly updated according to trends online. HSE officials have a direct route to Twitter to escalate concerns about specific disinformation.

A similar Twitter tool has been rolled out in 39 countries so far, using 15 languages. Each such rollout has involved a partnership with departments of health or their equivalent.

Accounts challenged

Since the middle of last year, 11.5 million Twitter accounts internationally have been challenged by the company over alleged misinformation. No Ireland-specific breakdown of this figure is available.

After being challenged, these accounts then go through a process where they must prove they are operated by humans and are not automated bots. Users can be “sin-binned” for a period for infractions on the platform and may ultimately have their accounts deleted under a “strike-based” system.

“Where we see people saying the vaccine is ineffective, it’s a hoax, you shouldn’t take up an appointment if you’ve been offered one... and things like that, it will be challenged by us,” according to Ronan Costello, Twitter’s senior public policy manager.

He described the level of disinformation circulating since December, when Twitter updated its policy on challenging co-ordinated “harmful activity” online, as quiet.

“The world of misinformation has become quite small,” he observed. “The themes of disinformation that we see around Covid or elections come from a small global community.

“Ireland is part of the global disinformation community too, and the themes are shared regardless of geography.”

News Digests

Stay on top of the latest newsSIGN UP HERE