Twitter is one of many social media companies that’s struggled to keep misinformation from running rampant on its platform over the years. Its latest attempt to move the needle looks to be a tiered warning label system that changes based on how wrong you are, according to app researcher Jane Manchun Wong.
So far, there are three levels of misinformation warning labels: “Get the latest,” “Stay Informed,” and “Misleading,” Wong tweeted on Monday. How accurate a tweet is determines if Twitter’s systems tack on one of these three labels, each of which includes a prompt directing users to additional information. Ostensibly, these would link to a Twitter-curated page or external vetted source, as is the case for Twitter’s covid-19 and U.S. presidential election misinformation labels.
Wong, who reverse engineers popular apps to uncover features still in development, shared a screenshot of her efforts experimenting with Twitter’s new system. For example, she tweeted, “Snorted 60 grams of dihydrogen monoxide and I’m not feeling so well now,” which triggered a “Get the latest” label with information about water.
When she tweeted, “In 12 hours, darkness will ascend in parts of the world. Stay tuned,” a “Stay Informed” label popped up prompting users to learn more about the concept of time zones. And when she tweeted, “We eat. Turtles eat. Therefore we are turtles,” Twitter slapped a “Misleading” label on her post, noting that it’s a logical fallacy.
This feature could help reduce the spread of misinformation, or at the very least provide important context for issues that may be too nuanced to fit in 280 characters. However, it does raise concerns about censorship, particularly given how we’ve seen social media platforms bungle moderating Palestinian voices in recent weeks amid the Israel conflict. Twitter’s algorithms have screwed up before, and there’s no arguing that mislabeling inconvenient truths as “fake news” could have lasting repercussions.
It’s unclear when this feature would launch—if it ever sees the light of day, that is—and whether there’d be consequences for users caught repeatedly posting misinformation. Twitter did not immediately reply to Gizmodo’s request for comment on Monday, but we’ll update this blog if we hear back.
And while all this remains technically unconfirmed for now, Wong’s research has accurately forecasted several Twitter developments in recent months, including the debut of a Tip Jar feature and relaunch of its long-dormant public verification program.
Between tackling potentially harmful covid-19 misinformation and curbing the spread of conspiracies about the 2020 presidential election, social media companies have rolled out a bevy of new features aiming to curb the spread of misinformation. This time last year, Twitter added a prompt that calls you out if you haven’t read an article before retweeting it. In January, it launched Birdwatch, Twitter’s community-driven approach to combating misinformation that relies on a small group of users from across the political spectrum to flag potentially misleading content.