Twitter’s publishing of new rules adds to confusion on misinformation policies

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Twitter published rules for the platform on Monday under new CEO Elon Musk that added to confusion over what content will be allowed on a Twitter that is under his control. 

Musk said the rules will “evolve over time,” but the rules he linked to on Monday did not offer guidance on how the company will address false claims on the platform — an issue critics have been sounding the alarm on since Musk closed his $44 billion deal

The new rules do explicitly prohibit action such as the glorification of violence, promotion of terrorism, child sexual exploitation and targeted harassment. They also seek to limit users from impersonating others and from publishing other people’s private information.

But the Twitter Rules posted Monday, and shared by Musk on Twitter to his 114 million followers, do not reference some of the policies the platform had in place before Musk took over the company as part of his $44 billion acquisition, including rules to mitigate misinformation about COVID-19 or crisis misinformation about areas in conflict, such as Ukraine. 

The rules do still keep in place Twitter’s policy on Civic Integrity, which states that users may not use Twitter’s services “for the purpose of manipulating or interfering in election of other civic processes.”

In a blog post from August, the company laid out additional rules in place ahead of the midterm elections, including labeling “misleading information” and directing users to information about voting with “prebunks.” 

Those rules did not appear to be included in the rules published on Monday.

Elsewhere on Twitter’s Help Center page, the policies around COVID-19 and crisis misinformation are still posted. But it is not clear if they are included under the new rules since they are not explicitly stated in the rules Musk shared. Other rules that are included in the rules published Monday, though, link back to the policies that remain published on other portions of the help center. 

For example, the Civic Integrity policy published in the new rules Monday links back to the same policy included in the section on the Help Center that includes links to the previous COVID-19 and crisis misinformation policies. 

Spokespeople for Twitter have not responded to multiple requests for comment from The Hill to clarify how the new rules impact enforcement of misinformation policies. 

John Perrino, a policy analyst at Stanford’s Internet Observatory, told The Hill Twitter’s policies appear to remain the same as of Monday afternoon, but he said Musk’s sharing of the new rules added confusion at a time when there’s already “so much chaos at Twitter.” 

In response to a reporter on Twitter about whether the new rules mean the company is no longer enforcing its misinformation-related policies, Twitter head of safety and integrity Yoel Roth said “no.” 

The rollout comes amid widespread concerns from civil rights and other advocacy groups about the risk of rising hate speech and misinformation on Twitter under Musk, based on the CEOs previous comments about wanting to create his vision of a “free speech” platform with less content moderation measures in place. 

Even before officially changing Twitter policies, advocacy group leaders slammed Musk’s decisions to lay off Twitter staff. They said those staffing changes would make it difficult for Twitter to moderate content at an acceptable level even if Musk didn’t change policies.

This story was updated at 5:03 p.m.

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