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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.

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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Iran pop singer silenced, but his song remains a protest anthem

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Shervin Hajipour's song "Baraye" draws on the tweets of Iranians longing for a normal life

Shervin Hajipour’s song “Baraye” draws on the tweets of Iranians longing for a normal life – Copyright Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP)/AFP –

David Vujanovic

Even though he has been silenced, Iranian pop singer Shirvin Hajipour’s impassioned song in support of protests over Mahsa Amini’s death in custody remains an unofficial anthem of the movement.

The song “Baraye” notched up 40 million views on Instagram before it was deleted when Hajipour was arrested, but he has since been freed on bail and has distanced himself from politics, likely as a condition for his release.

Baraye, the Persian word “For” or “Because”, is composed of tweets about the protests and highlights longings people have for things lacking in sanctions-hit Iran, where many complain of hardship caused by economic mismanagement.

It also draws on everyday activities that have landed people in trouble with the authorities in the Islamic republic.

“For the sake of dancing in the streets; Because of the fear felt while kissing; For my sister, your sister, your sisters,” the song’s lyrics say.

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“Because of the embarrassment of an empty pocket; Because we are longing for a normal life… Because of this polluted air.”

Baraye has been heard played loudly at night from apartment blocks in Iran to show support for protests sparked by Amini’s death on September 16, after the notorious morality police arrested her for allegedly breaching rules requiring women to wear hijab headscarves and modest clothes.

It was also sung with gusto by the Iranian diaspora at rallies in more than 150 cities around the world at the weekend.

In one clip shared by the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran, a group of schoolgirls without headscarves is seen singing Baraye in class with their backs to the camera.

The tune was removed from Hajipour’s Instagram account shortly after his arrest but is still widely available on other social media platforms, including Twitter and YouTube.

– ‘Because of forced Instagram stories’ –

Hajipour’s lawyer Majid Kaveh said he was released on bail at noon on Tuesday.

The reformist Shargh newspaper said his family had been informed of his arrest in the northern city of Sari on Saturday, in a report that cited his sister Kamand Hajipour.

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She had said in an Instagram post that her parents had been informed of his arrest in a call from the city’s intelligence ministry offices.

Shortly after his release, Hajipour was back on Instagram, but this time to apologise and distance himself from politics.

“I’m here to say I’m okay,” he told his 1.9 million followers on the platform.

“But I’m sorry that some particular movements based outside of Iran — which I have had no relations with — made some improper political uses of this song.

“I would not swap this (country) for anywhere else and I will stay for my homeland, my flag, my people, and I will sing.

“I don’t want to be a plaything for those who do not think of me, you or this country,” he added.

In response to his post, many on Twitter suggested the line “Because of forced Instagram stories” should be added to the lyrics of the song.

Human rights groups including Article 19 have repeatedly called on Iran to end its use of forced confessions, which they say are false and extracted under duress or even torture.

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In one recent case, a young Iranian woman, Sepideh Rashno, disappeared after becoming involved in a dispute on a Tehran bus with another woman who accused her of removing her headscarf.

She was held by the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and appeared on television in what activists said was a forced confession before being released on bail in late August.

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