Elon Musk’s X No Longer Lets Users Flag Fake Political News

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Elon Musk's X No Longer Lets Users Flag Fake Political News

Elon Musk’s X No Longer Lets Users Flag Fake Political News

Elon Musk X (previously Twitter) removed an opportunity for users in a few markets to directly report fake Political News.

Reset.Australia, an Australian digital research group noticed the shift and wrote to X’s country manager in an open letter (via the Guardian):

A recent change to your reporting process appears to have left Australian users unable to report electoral misinformation.  This is because the categories for reporting in Australia offer no option to report electoral misinformation. Users are offered inappropriate categories such as hate speech, abuse, spam, imitation etc. Previously Australian users could select ‘It’s misleading’ about ‘Politics’ category. This may leave violative content subject to an inappropriate review process and not labelled or removed in compliance with your policies.

The group cautions X that the change may contravene Australia’s disinformation code, which mandates signatories to provide public reporting options for users to report policy violations.

X’s Civic Integrity Policy makes clear that electoral misinformation is against your policies (see appendix 2). Users should be able to report this content appropriately,” it adds. The letter also points out the timing of the change comes ahead of a major vote — dubbing it “extremely concerning that Australians would lose the ability to report serious misinformation weeks away from a major referendum”.

In our tests, users with IP addresses in the US, Australia, Brazil, or Spain—some of the first areas to allow political misinformation reporting—no longer have the opportunity to directly report election misinformation on X.

Instead, users who click on the “report post” option in the drop-down menu attached to each tweet can report hate, abuse, harassment, violent speech, child safety, privacy, spam, suicide or self-harm, sensitive or disturbing media, deceptive identities, and violent and hateful entities.

The closest thing to false information is reporting fake identities, but it’s focused on account impersonation, including brands, so it’s not suitable for other political misinformation.

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In August 2021, Twitter’s former leadership introduced the misleading information reporting feature to select markets, including the US, as a test. Users could report political/election, health/COVID-19, and other misinformation. Tracking electoral activities, South Korea and the Philippines implemented the option.

Twitter (now X) stopped enforcing the COVID-19 misleading information policy last fall after new owner Elon Musk took over and started putting his mark (or sink) on things. It posted a one-line update on its official blog:

Effective November 23, 2022, Twitter is no longer enforcing the COVID-19 misleading information policy.”

X has not stated that political misinformation enforcement will halt. In another official blog post last month, an unnamed member of “X Safety” claimed that X is expanding its safety and elections teams “to focus on combating manipulation, surfacing inauthentic accounts and closely monitoring the platform for emerging threats” to combat election threats.

The blog post also links directly to X’s “Civic Integrity” rules — which explicitly state:

You may not use X’s services for the purpose of manipulating or interfering in elections or other civic processes. This includes posting or sharing content that may suppress participation or mislead people about when, where, or how to participate in a civic process.

However, the blog post highlights a series of policy changes that, when examined, indicate that under Musk the platform’s T&Cs apply a specific meaning of civic integrity that does not broadly prohibit misleading political information.

The “Civic Integrity” policy prohibitions, which are only in effect for a limited time before and after political elections, censuses, and “major” referenda and ballot initiatives, focus on misleading information about voting, intimidation, and false or misleading affiliation.

Musk considers broad falsehoods regarding elected or appointed officials, candidates, and political parties ‘freedom of expression’. (The blog post states that the platform aims to “strike the right balance between tackling the most harmful types of content — those that could intimidate or deceive people into surrendering their right to participate in a civic process — and not censoring political debate”.)

According to the post, X’s “enforcement philosophy” changed in April to make policy-violating posts less discoverable rather than remove them. To add labels with “visibility filtering” applied.

Given this strategy, Musk’s removal of the legacy option to report inaccurate political content may create many reports X won’t act on.

If X’s actions are to reflect its stated “Civic Integrity” policies, you would have expected it to add a direct option for users to report election misinformation and, under that, offer additional options for reporting voter suppression/intimidation, etc., even if these options only appeared close to a relevant poll.

But reset.With just over two weeks until the 2023 Indigenous Voice referendum on October 14, Australia says that hasn’t happened.

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X users can report account impersonation, which could be used to report candidate or political party impersonation, but Australian users cannot directly report election interference posts.

Musk looks to be worsening X misinformation.

Yesterday, the EU reported on pilot research by Code of Practice participants that indicated X’s platform had the worst ratio of disinformation/misinformation posts in three EU Member States.

Musk’s decision to remove labels from state-run or government-affiliated media accounts increased Russian, Chinese, and Iranian propaganda, which commonly targets democratic elections, according to NewsGuard.

Musk has enhanced election disinformation reporting options for EU users, including Spain, where it has also removed the direct opportunity to submit inaccurate political info from the main “report post” tab.

X users in Spain (i.e., inside the EU) no longer see a direct political misinformation reporting option when they click on “report post,” but they do see a “report EU illegal content” option at the top of the menu where they can report election misinformation or other “negative effects” on civic discourse.

The new reporting allows EU users to report violations under the Digital Services Act (DSA), which entails fines of up to 6% of global annual revenue.

This type of report requires some contact information, specifying which EU country’s laws the content violates, and choosing from a list of 14 options under the “legal reason” drop-down menu, which includes the option to report “negative effects on civic discourse or elections” (which should be selected).

A blank space is provided on the DSA form for applicants to “provide more details about what’s happening“:

DSA form

Since the DSA took effect last month for larger platforms like X, this “report EU illegal content” option has allowed all EU users to report misleading political content, even though X has removed a direct option to report it in the main “report post” menu.

It is unclear how the platform will handle EU user notifications of unlawful content. (For instance, X is being sued in Germany for failing to remove illegal hate speech. So it may limit how it acts on user reports of posts with “negative effects” on civic debate or elections, but it must justify its response to EU regulators or risk large fines.

The new pan-EU rule requires platforms to respond to certain sorts of harmful content, including by allowing users to report political misinformation. X under Musk is clearly just offering this option to EU consumers.

The DSA expects larger platforms like X to examine and address systemic risks, including disinformation. It must not prohibit or ignore user reports by law.

Given Musk’s reputation as a free speech advocate, countries and locations without similar legal restrictions to the EU’s DSA, such as the US, no longer have a direct choice on X to report political propaganda.

However, the lack of a clear means for non-EU X users to report election-related falsehoods seems inconsistent with Musk’s company’s principles.

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X’s press office did not respond to our emails about the removal of a direct option for users to report misleading political information, even though CEO Linda Yaccarino reiterated her commitment to election integrity in a Financial Times interview today. Instead, the company sent its latest empty auto-reply:

Busy now, check back later.”

Frequently Asked Questions related to “Elon Musk’s X No Longer Lets Users Flag Fake Political News”:

1. What is the significance of “X” in this context?

A: “X” refers to the specific platform or service associated with Elon Musk’s initiatives or companies. To provide more detailed information, we would need to know which specific platform or service is being discussed.

2. Why has “X” decided to no longer allow users to flag fake political news?

A: The decision to discontinue the option to flag fake political news may be based on various reasons, which could include changes in policy, a shift in content moderation strategies, or other factors. The specific rationale would depend on the platform’s official statement.

3. How did users previously report fake political news on “X”?

A: Users typically report fake political news or misleading content through specific reporting features or mechanisms provided by the platform. These mechanisms may have included reporting buttons, flags, or other reporting tools.

4. What impact will this decision have on the platform’s content moderation and quality of information?

A: The impact of this decision on content moderation and information quality may vary. Some users may be concerned that it could lead to the spread of misinformation, while others may see it as a change in moderation policy to address specific issues.

5. Are there alternative methods for users to address fake political news on “X”?

A: Depending on the platform, there may still be alternative methods for users to address fake political news, such as sharing concerns with platform support or relying on community guidelines and user reporting.

6. Does this change affect the platform’s stance on combating misinformation in general?

A: The decision to discontinue the option to flag fake political news may or may not reflect a broader change in the platform’s approach to combating misinformation. It’s important to review the platform’s official statements and policies for clarity.

7. Are there any plans for “X” to implement new strategies to tackle fake political news in the future?

A: It’s possible that the platform may have alternative strategies or tools in development to address the issue of fake political news. Any such plans would likely be communicated by the platform in official announcements.

8. Can users still report other forms of content that violate platform policies or guidelines?

A: The discontinuation of political news flagging does not necessarily mean users cannot report other types of content that violate platform policies. Users should check the platform’s reporting mechanisms and guidelines for details.

9. How can users ensure they are well-informed about political news on “X” given this change?

A: To stay informed about political news on the platform, users may need to rely more on their own critical thinking, fact-checking, and following reliable news sources. Staying updated on the platform’s content policies is also advisable.

10. Where can I find the official statement or announcement regarding this change on “X”?

A: To find the official statement or announcement regarding this change, you should refer to “X’s” official website, blog, or official social media channels where they typically share updates and announcements related to their platform or service.

Please note that the specific details of this change may vary depending on the platform in question, and it’s important to refer to official sources for the most accurate and up-to-date information.

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