Twitter Expands Feature to Flag ‘Misinformation’

By Nicholas Dolinger
Nicholas Dolinger
Nicholas Dolinger
Nicholas Dolinger is a business reporter for The Epoch Times and creator of "The Beautiful Toilet" podcast.
January 17, 2022 Updated: January 17, 2022

Twitter said on Monday that it will be expanding a test feature allowing users to report posts for misinformation, which will now be available for users in Brazil, Spain, and the Philippines.

“Today we’re expanding this test feature to folks tweeting from Brazil, Spain, or the Philippines,” the company announced in a post. “Till now we’ve received around 3M reports from you all, calling out Tweets that violate our policies & helping us understand new misinformation trends.”

The feature, which has been available as a pilot program in the United States, Australia, and South Korea since its debut last August, allows users to flag content that they perceive as spreading misinformation. Twitter’s official policy states that “[c]ontent that is demonstrably false or misleading and may lead to significant risk of harm (such as increased exposure to the virus, or adverse effects on public health systems) may not be shared on Twitter,” but the exact parameters of this policy are left for moderators and automated filters to decide.

The expansion is particularly noteworthy for the fact that two of the three countries affected are scheduled for elections later this year: the Philippines on May 9 and Brazil on Oct. 2. In both cases, the highly politicized conflict over misinformation may have an asymmetric impact on opposing political factions.

In the Philippines, the announcement arrived serendipitously on the same day as a court ruling, which held that presidential front-runner Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. will be able to run after his eligibility was disputed over a 1995 tax evasion conviction. Bongbong, who is the son of two-decade president Ferdinand Marcos Sr., has advanced his presidential ambitions by winning several endorsements from family members of the outgoing president Rodrigo Duterte, a self-proclaimed socialist whose aggressive escalation of a war on drugs and diplomatic affinity for Communist China have drawn criticism from Western media. The young Marcos has often found himself on both sides of the increasingly ubiquitous “misinformation” canard, both accusing his critics of fomenting misinformation about him while being attacked for allegedly doing the same.

Epoch Times Photo
Brazilian presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro reacts after being stabbed during a rally in Juiz de Fora, Brazil, on Sept. 6, 2018. (Reuters/Raysa Campos Leite)

The expansion into Brazil is similarly contentious, as the battle over “misinformation” has taken on a distinctly politicized character. Last year, O Globo, which holds the title of Brazil’s largest media outlet, published an op-ed encouraging tech platforms to ban President Jair Bolsonaro, as several did with U.S. President Donald Trump in 2020. The Brazilian media class has accused the incumbent president of fomenting “misinformation” concerning the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus and the integrity of the Brazilian electoral process. After a first term beset by challenges with the CCP virus pandemic and public conflict between the president and regional governors, Bolsonaro trails in the polls behind former leftist president Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva.

While there is no indication that Twitter has considered the impact of its new feature on the upcoming elections, the arrival of the misinformation flagging system in the Philippines and Brazil at such a pivotal moment for both growing nations will certainly have some bearing upon the media landscape in each country.

Nicholas Dolinger is a business reporter for The Epoch Times and creator of "The Beautiful Toilet" podcast.