Twitter has apologized for slapping a COVID-19 label on tweets about 5G, but experts say the platform’s algorithm could be encouraging the spread of conspiracy theories (TWTR)

5g conspiracy theory coronavirus

On Friday, Twitter users noticed that the platform was marking tweets mentioning “5G” or “oxygen” with a warning about COVID-19 misinformation.
Mislabeling tweets that link 5G and COVID-19 could help to “raise the profile” of the popular conspiracy theory that the cellular technology caused the coronavirus outbreak, according to social media researcher Wasim Ahmed.
In a statement to Business Insider, Twitter said it had make a mistake and was working to “improve” its labeling process. It blamed the error on the algorithm it has been using to prioritize the immediate labelling of 5G-related tweets.

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Twitter has admitted it mistakenly slapped a coronavirus misinformation warning on some tweets mentioning 5G technology, but experts say the error could have far-reaching implications in social networks’ struggle to battle COVID-related conspiracy theories.

Several Twitter users pointed out Friday that the platform was marking tweets mentioning “5G” and “oxygen” — including some that used these terms in jest — with a label indicating their posts contain misinformation regarding COVID-19, the coronavirus disease. Twitter, in a statement to Business Insider later that afternoon, said that it had made a mistake by labeling “unrelated” posts, and attributed the error to the algorithm it’s using to identify tweets containing coronavirus-related misinformation.

In the last few weeks, you may have seen Tweets with labels linking to additional info about COVID-19. Not all of those Tweets had potentially misleading content associating COVID-19 and 5G. We apologize for any confusion and we’re working to improve our labeling process. (1/4)

— Twitter Support (@TwitterSupport) June 26, 2020

 

Nonetheless, the labels suggesting users “get the facts about COVID-19” still appear on the tweets in question as of Monday afternoon. Clicking on the warning label brings users to a Twitter Moment about the particularly widespread conspiracy theory that blames the coronavirus outbreak on the rollout of 5G, a new technology designed to increase mobile connectivity speeds.

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Twitter first added the COVID-19 misinformation label in May, in an attempt to crack down on “potentially harmful and misleading” coronavirus-related content. The 5G-related conspiracy theory has garnered widespread attention online for months, even though there’s no scientific evidence to support it. It’s led to dozens of arson attacks on 5G cell towers and other telecom infrastructure in the UK and Europe. It’s also been spread online by Hollywood celebrities and popular artists to their hoards of fans and followers.

However, social media researchers say that Twitter’s mixup in its attempt to fight misinformation could end up having the opposite effect of what’s intended. According to researcher Wasim Ahmed, mislabeling these tweets could “inadvertently raise the profile” of the conspiracy theory, spreading its reach to more users online.

“This mislabeling could be used to further strengthen the belief in conspiracies by saying, ‘Look what’s happening on Twitter, it looks suspicious,'” Ahmed told Business Insider. “Mislabeling non-offending tweets with an incorrect label linking to a Twitter moment, showing 5G and COVID-19 are not linked, may also …read more

Source:: Business Insider – Tech

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