Throughout the pandemic, COVID-19 misinformation has been shared rapidly across social media networks. As Twitter, Facebook and YouTube try to crack down on its spread, a recent claim suggesting Twitter has plans to penalize users who say vaccinated people can spread or shed the virus is causing some concern across the social media platform and some websites. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has already confirmed that vaccinated people can, in fact, spread COVID-19.
A website that frequently posts content about big tech censorship wrote in a Dec. 11 article that Twitter “quietly updated” its COVID-19 misleading information policy with these new sanctions on Dec. 2, according to a Wayback Machine archive retrieved by the site. Now, a VERIFY viewer wants to know if these claims are true.
Is Twitter penalizing accounts that suggest vaccinated people can spread COVID-19?
No, Twitter is not penalizing accounts that suggest vaccinated people can spread COVID-19.
WHAT WE FOUND
A Twitter spokesperson told VERIFY via email “the Help Center language referenced – that we enforce against claims vaccinated people can shed or spread the virus – was a typo and has been corrected.” A screengrab of the previous wording is embedded below.
“The earlier language is not reflective of our enforcement approach, past or present. We’ve enforced our COVID-19 misleading information policy in line with the corrected language only,” the spokesperson said. The corrected language is embedded below.
The VERIFY team could not find an example of a tweet that was flagged by Twitter with the previous language. A tweet posted on Dec. 15 that says “people who are vaccinated can still spread covid” appears to be free of any label.
The spokesperson added that labels identifying a post as “misleading” could be placed on tweets that contain claims that “people who have received the vaccine can spread or shed the vaccine (or symptoms, or immunity) to unvaccinated people” — not the virus. The corrected language is now reflected in Twitter’s updated COVID-19 misleading information policy.
When tweets include misleading information about COVID-19, Twitter says it may place a label on those tweets that include corrective information about the claim. Twitter may also add labels “to provide context in situations where authoritative opinion might change or is changing over time, in situations where local context is important or when the potential for harm is less direct or imminent.”
According to Twitter, when a label is applied to a tweet, this typically entails:
- Presenting a warning message on the tweet
- Showing an additional prompt to warn people before sharing or liking the tweet;
- Reducing the visibility of the tweet on Twitter and/or preventing it from being recommended;
- Turning off likes, replies, and Retweets; and/or
- Providing a link to additional explanations or clarifications, such as in a curated landing page or relevant Twitter policies.
Twitter also says it may require users to delete tweets that are found to violate its policy, especially tweets that are “severely harmful.” This could lead to Twitter temporarily locking a user out of their account before they share the misinformation again or a permanent suspension following repeated violations.