The social media platform has come under intense pressure to fight disinformation and clarify its policies regarding policing accounts, especially after former US President Donald Trump’s permanent ban.
However, even though Twitter was banned in his country, Iran’s Chief Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, including the controversial megaphone, will remain unaffected, potentially undermining the effectiveness of the new policy.
The movement is also not about tackling disinformation from government-sponsored accounts spreading across social media platforms. Twitter implemented it instead policies According to Nick Pickles, Twitter’s global public policy strategy and development director, against the spread of false or misleading information, it is applied equally to all accounts and thousands of fake accounts removed in recent years.
“Our primary motivation is to give people more context on Twitter about the tweets they see rather than changing the way governments behave, wherever they are in the world,” Pickles told ABC News in an interview. “These tags are not punitive. They don’t limit the visibility of tweets. They don’t affect how people view these tweets. It’s just additional context to apply to tweets.”
In August, Twitter began tagging the official government accounts of five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council – the United States, Russia, China, the United Kingdom and France. These official accounts, including spokespersons, heads of state, and government agencies, now have a gray-flagged emoji and a “government account” tag on their biography pages – and each tweet makes it clear that the message is an official position.
However, the policy extends only to “official” accounts. For example, the account of the French presidency @ Elysee has been flagged, but the personal account of Emmanuel Macron, to whom the French president frequently tweeted about his activities and views, is not the kind of loophole that will change under the new policies. According to Twitter. There will be a gray flag on verified personal accounts for heads of state, foreign ministers, ambassadors, spokespersons and agencies.
Pickles said that the policy will expand to 16 countries on February 17 and G-7 members Canada, Germany, Italy and Japan actively “participate in geopolitical conversation on Twitter” – Cuba, Ecuador, Egypt, Honduras, Indonesia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Spain, Thailand, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.
Twitter previously removed thousands of accounts linked to some of these countries’ governments, particularly Saudi Arabia and Iran, for “spam” behavior that manipulated the platform’s conversations.
This “important state-sponsored information operation[s]”As Twitter says, it aims to support the country’s interests and even interfere with the internal affairs of an enemy. In October, Twitter announced that it had removed fake Saudi accounts pretending to be Qatari officials, fake Iranian accounts artificially strengthened tense racial issues in the United States. fake Cuban accounts that support the league.
However, the new government labels will not directly affect such disinformation operations. Instead, it aims to clarify what official statements are, and therefore the official policies of foreign governments, especially as citizens of one country increasingly interact with the spokespersons and agencies of the other.
“Now we see real-time governments challenging each other, sharing different perspectives, sharing and strengthening their own values, and so for us, this public talk of being visible to the people between governments is of great value,” Pickles said. “People can participate in it themselves, and then providing these tags gives people additional context to understand the source of the accounts when they see these conversations happening.”
But policy will still only affect verified government accounts, leaving a huge gap. According to Pickles, Iran’s greatest leader Khamenei will not be affected because no account has been confirmed for him. Keeping their accounts on the platform that attacks Israel from time to time and gets stronger COVID-19 Misinformation brought to Twitter the ire of conservatives in the US, especially after Trump’s suspension.
It also caused a great deal of confusion last month. An account apparently linked shared a graph showing Trump being targeted by a drone attack while playing golf – a vengeance threat after the US ordered a strike in January 2020, which killed Iran’s most powerful military commander, Qasem Soleimani.
The @Khamenei_site account was suspended, with a Twitter spokesperson speaking to ABC News when the account was fake and engaged in “abusive behavior”. However, the graphic he tweeted was also featured on Khamenei’s personal website, so even though the account was not officially linked, he was doing state-sponsored propaganda.
“People may believe the account is” legitimate, “Pickles said,” it works in violation of our rules. “
Verifying which Ayatollah accounts are real, including those in different languages, can help clarify the issue, especially as Twitter prepares to tag other Iranian government accounts. Twitter is banned in the country, although many top officials in the country use it to speak abroad and many ordinary Iranians find ways to circumvent this ban.
Pickles did not comment specifically on why accounts remained unverified, but generally said there were “a number of factors” in verification.
“This will be an ongoing, iterative process. If new accounts join Twitter and are verified, we will continue to implement tags in real time,” he added.
In the coming months, after the heads of official government and personal government accounts have been tagged, Twitter will also move towards marking “state-linked” accounts from these new countries. Many countries, especially Russia and China, used these channels to spread their messages and make propaganda. For example, the Russian state broadcaster RT played a key role in forcing disinformation as part of Russia’s intervention in the 2016 US presidential election, even if some Americans did not know it was a foreign state media operation.
Until now, Twitter has defined state-funded media outlets of the five major UN powers only if they do not have “editorial” independence. For example, while the BBC in the UK or the NPR in the US is not labeled, Russia’s Sputnik point of sale and China’s Xinhua News are among the media accounts that have been hit with labels. Tweets from government media accounts will not be augmented on Twitter through suggestion systems in timelines, searches or notifications.
The policy could put a US government-funded news agency such as Voice of America, which currently has an editorial firewall, at risk of being tagged. Pickles said that VOA is not currently tagged, but “it’s a dynamic global environment, so it’s a complex area as we see organizations change their behavior and it’s definitely something we talk to academics and partners regularly to approach.”
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