Home U.S. Twitter’s changes to combat the spread of misinformation could affect its best-known...

Twitter’s changes to combat the spread of misinformation could affect its best-known user: President Trump.

ImagePresident Trump posted a video via Twitter last week from Walter Reed Medical Center.

Risking the ire of its best-known user, President Trump, Twitter said on Friday that it would turn off several of its routine features in an attempt to control the spread of misinformation in the final weeks before the presidential election.

Twitter will make several notable changes.

  • It will essentially give users a timeout before they can hit the button to retweet a post from another account. A prompt will nudge them to add their own comment or context before sharing the original post.

  • It will disable the system that suggests posts on the basis of someone’s interests and the activity of accounts they follow. In their timelines, users will see only content from accounts they follow and ads.

  • If users try to share content that Twitter has flagged as false, a notice will warn them that they are about to share inaccurate information.

Most of the changes will happen on Oct. 20 and will be temporary, Twitter said. Labels warning users against sharing false information will begin to appear next week. The company plans to wait until the result of the presidential election is clear before turning the features back on.

The changes could have a direct impact on Mr. Trump’s online activity. Since returning to the White House Monday after being hospitalized with the coronavirus, he has been on a Twitter tear. On Tuesday evening, for example, he tweeted, or retweeted posts from other accounts, about 40 times.

Social media companies have moved in recent months to fight the spread of misinformation around the election. Facebook and Google have committed to banning political ads for an undetermined period after polls close on Nov. 3. Facebook also said a banner at the top of its news feed would caution users that no winner had been declared until news outlets called the presidential race.

The companies are trying to avoid a repeat of the 2016 election, when Russian operatives used them to spread falsehoods and hyperpartisan content in an attempt to destabilize the American electorate.

Over the last year, Twitter has slowly been stripping away parts of its service that have been used to spread false and misleading information. Jack Dorsey, the chief executive, announced last year that the company would no longer allow political advertising. Twitter has more aggressively fact-checked misinformation, including from the president. Earlier this week, after Mr. Trump went on Twitter and misleadingly compared the coronavirus to the flu, Twitter appended a note saying that the post had violated its rules about spreading false and misleading information about the virus.

Those fact-checks have led to a backlash from the Trump administration. Mr. Trump, who has 87 million followers on Twitter, has called for a repeal of legal protections Twitter and other social media companies rely on.



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