Twitter is responding to the Chinese coronavirus by banning jokes about it.
In a post published on the site’s official blog earlier today, Twitter said that “description of treatments or protective measures which are not immediately harmful but are known to be ineffective, are not applicable to the COVID-19 context, or are being shared with the intent to mislead others, even if made in jest.” (emphasis ours)
Examples used by Twitter include “coronavirus is not heat-resistant — walking outside is enough to disinfect you” or “use aromatherapy and essential oils to prevent COVID-19.”
Twitter will also ban a range of other posts related to the coronavirus, including:
- Denial of established scientific facts about transmission during the incubation period or transmission guidance from global and local health authorities
- Specific claims around COVID-19 information that intends to manipulate people into certain behavior for the gain of a third party with a call to action within the claim, such as “coronavirus is a fraud and not real – go out and patronize your local bar!!”
- Claims that specific groups, nationalities are never susceptible to COVID-19
- Claims that specific groups, nationalities are more susceptible to COVID-19
- False or misleading claims on how to differentiate between COVID-19 and a different disease
- Propagating false or misleading information around COVID-19 diagnostic criteria
- Specific and unverified claims that incite people to action and cause widespread panic, social unrest or large-scale disorder
- Specific and unverified claims made by people impersonating a government or health official or organization
- Denial of global or local health authority recommendations to decrease someone’s likelihood of exposure to COVID-19
Twitter said it is “broadening our definition of harm to address content that goes directly against guidance from authoritative sources of global and local public health information.”
“Rather than reports, we will enforce this in close coordination with trusted partners, including public health authorities and governments.”
It also said it will expand the use of “machine learning and automation” in its efforts to tackle the newly-banned content.
A bug in Facebook’s spam detection systems recently caused links to legitimate news stories about the coronavirus to be blocked across the site.
In an apparent acknowledgment of the limitations of machine learning, Twitter said: “while we work to ensure our systems are consistent, they can sometimes lack the context that our teams bring, and this may result in us making mistakes.”
“As a result, we will not permanently suspend any accounts based solely on our automated enforcement systems.”
Allum Bokhari is the senior technology correspondent at Breitbart News.