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Twitter Updates its Efforts to Tackle COVID-19 Vaccine Misinformation

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With COVID-19 vaccinations now underway around the world, Twitter has announced that it’s updating its approach to how it combats vaccine misinformation, in order to help ensure optimal take-up, and get society back to normal as quickly as possible.

As explained by Twitter:

In the context of a global pandemic, vaccine misinformation presents a significant and growing public health challenge – and we all have a role to play. We are focused on mitigating misleading information that presents the biggest potential harm to people’s health and wellbeing. Twitter has an important role to play as a place for good faith public debate and discussion around these critical public health matters.”

Don’t know that I would describe Twitter as a place for ‘good faith public debate’, but the key point is still relevant – as health authorities plan for the staged implementation of the COVID-19 vaccine, misinformation online could potentially derail that process, in various ways, which will then delay recovery efforts, and stop us emerging from the months-long tunnel that’s been 2020.

To address this, Twitter says that it will ramp up its existing rules around COVID-19 misinformation. Twitter already prompts users to remove tweets which contain general misinformation about the virus, and/or misleading statements about treatments and cures.

From next week, Twitter will take this a step further.

“Moving forward, we’re expanding the policy and may require people to remove Tweets which advance harmful false or misleading narratives about COVID-19 vaccinations, including: 

  • False claims that suggest immunizations and vaccines are used to intentionally cause harm to or control populations, including statements about vaccines that invoke a deliberate conspiracy;
  • False claims which have been widely debunked about the adverse impacts or effects of receiving vaccinations; or
  • False claims that COVID-19 is not real or not serious, and therefore that vaccinations are unnecessary.”

That could see a lot more tweets come under scrutiny, so Twitter’s definitely setting itself a task.

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In addition to this, beginning early in the new year, Twitter will also start placing warnings on Tweets “that advance unsubstantiated rumors, disputed claims, as well as incomplete or out-of-context information about vaccines”. 

So no more Bill Gates, mircrochip, 5G conspiracy comments – which makes perfect sense, given what’s at stake. But again, that will cover a lot of tweets.

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Social media misinformation remains a huge element of concern in the next stage of the COVID-19 battle, with health authorities warning that it could take much longer to recover from the mitigation efforts due to rising “anti-science bias”, which could see many refusing the vaccine. The more that do, the more risk remains – and while, eventually, enough people will be vaccinated to counter those who opt-out, bars, sporting venues, concerts – all of these things can’t re-open until there’s a level of take-up within each community.

Hopefully, the vocal opposition to the vaccine is not representative of real-world response, which will facilitate faster recovery, but slowing the spread of misinformation will be another key element in alleviating concerns.

Health officials in each region are independently approving the vaccines based on their testing protocols, so the public can rest assured that the treatments will be safe when administered. 

Facebook announced that it’s also cracking down on vaccine misinformation earlier in the month.

Socialmediatoday.com

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New Screenshots Highlight How Snapchat’s Coming ‘Family Center’ Will Work

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New Screenshots Highlight How Snapchat's Coming 'Family Center' Will Work

Snapchat’s parental control options look close to launch, with new screenshots based on back-end code showing how Snap’s coming ‘Family Center’ will look in the app.

As you can see in these images, shared by app intelligence company Watchful (via TechCrunch), the Family Center will enable parents to see who their child is engaging with in the app, along with who they’ve added, who they’re following, etc.

That could provide a new level of assurance for parents – though it could also be problematic for Snap, which has become a key resource for more private, intimate connection, with its anti-public posting ethos, and disappearing messages, helping to cement its place as an alternative to other social apps.

That’s really how Snap has embedded its niche. While other apps are about broadcasting your life to the wider world, Snap is about connecting with a small group of friends, where you can share your more private, secret thoughts, without concern of them living on forever, and coming back to bite you at a later stage.

That also, of course, means that more questionable, dangerous communications are happening in the app. Various reports have investigated how Snap is used for sending lewd messages, and arranging hook-ups, while drug dealers reportedly now use Snap to organize meet-ups and sales.

Which, of course, is why parents will be keen to get more insight into such, but I can’t imagine Snap users will be so welcoming of an intrusive tool in this respect.

But if parents know that it exists, they may have to, and that could be problematic for Snap. Teen users will need to accept their parents’ invitation to enable Family Center monitoring, but you can see how this could become an issue for many younger users in the app.

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Still, the protective benefits may well be worth it, with random hook-ups and other engagements posing significant risks. And with kids as young as 13 able to create a Snapchat account, there are many vulnerable youngsters engaging in the app.

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But it could reduce Snap’s appeal, as more parents become aware of the tool.

Snapchat hasn’t provided any further insight into the new Family Center, or when it will be released, but it looks close to launch based on these images.  

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