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Why is Twitter no longer enforcing its covid-19 misinformation policy?

In early 2020 Twitter introduced strict rules to restrict and suspend accounts spreading conspirary theories about coronavirus.

Twitter drops covid-19 misinformation policy

In the latest sign of Elon Musk’s more relaxed approach to content moderation, Twitter has announced that it will halt its coronavirus misinformation policy.

The platform introduced the guidelines in 2020 to prevent the spread of “harmful misinformation” related to covid-19 and the public health response. It became a key weapon in the effort to fight misinformation on Twitter and was well regarded by medical professionals.

Between its introduction in January 2020 and September 2022, the covid-19 misinformation policy saw more than 11,000 accounts suspended for contravening the rules. Close to 100,000 pieces of content were removed from the site for violating those rules.

The decision to withdraw the policy was not given a prominent announcement, but was instead revealed when users spotted a note on the company website.

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

Why has the covid-19 policy been removed from Twitter?

Twitter has not released a full explanation for the end of the coronavirus policy, but there is no shortage of speculation. The simplest explanation would be that covid-19 no longer poses the same threat that it did in early 2020.

Vaccinations have been widely available for well over a year, there is widespread immunity from serious infection and almost all pandemic-era restrictions have now been removed. It could be argued that continuing to enact a specific covid-19 misinformation policy is no longer necessary.

However Musk’s personal involvement in the decision may be more illustrative. Since taking over Twitter Musk has enacted a number of changes that reduce moderation on the platform. He described himself as a “free speech absolutist” and has already taken steps to restore banned accounts to the site.

Musk also has form for dismissing the importance of covid-19 safety initiatives. At the start of the pandemic he argued against the social distancing measures that were in place throughout the world.

I would call it, forcibly imprisoning people in their homes,Musk said in April 2020. “Against all their Constitutional rights, in my opinion, and breaking people’s freedoms in ways that are horrible and wrong.”

With Musk at the helm of Twitter, there will be no more punishments for those who spread covid-19 misinformation or who discourage vaccination and other safety measures on the platform.