As of Saturday, when this article was published, a number of tweets that had falsely made the quarantine claim were still live on the social network. Asked about them by CNN Business on Friday, the company had no comment.
But there is a gaping hole in its defenses: While, for instance, bots pushing misinformation in a coordinated way (think of one person controlling 100 Twitter bot accounts pushing false information) are against Twitter’s rules, objectively false information shared by regular users — say, individual anonymous accounts claiming that the biggest city in America is about to go into lockdown, are not.
Twitter has long-resisted fact-checking its platform.
The false tweet from 2012 is on the platform to this day.
That “self-correction mechanism” is one that Twitter has relied on for a long time. Indeed, a Twitter spokesperson Friday pointed CNN Business to de Blasio’s tweet, classifying it as a corrective action, and it is true that the mayor’s tweet had a lot more retweets than the ones with the false rumors of quarantine. The spokesperson also said Twitter will take action on tweets that could directly cause physical harm.
Twitter and other companies in Silicon Valley have long resisted being the arbiters of truth. Their argument normally includes principles of freedom of speech and is rooted in the tradition of the internet being an open and unrestricted form of communication —and that’s not a weak argument. It’s also true that not fact-checking is a lot less expensive for the companies making those principled arguments.
The account falsely stated “CDC advises those in these states to stay home today if older than 55.”
The tweet did not go viral and Twitter did not catch it. The tweet was still live on Friday but the account had removed the CNN branding. Its name had been changed to “operation murder Joe Biden.”
Twitter suspended the account after CNN Business asked about it on Friday.