USA Today suggests Twitter's lack of censorship helps enable 'the spread of misinformation'

"It's not clear that anyone at Twitter is even equipped or empowered to detect election-related disinformation or influence campaigns."

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With the primaries for the 2024 Presidential Election in full swing, USA Today ran a piece suggesting that the free speech policies Elon Musk implemented at Twitter could help the spread of "misinformation" on the platform. 

In the piece, the outlet said that lawmakers and regulators, former Twitter executives, national security officials, and other analysts expressed concern that Twitter's lack of censorship leaves them vulnerable to "coordinated disinformation campaigns that could influence the outcome of the race."

Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) has advocated for the federal government to be more involved in regulating content on social media platforms. However, a federal judge in Louisiana recently restricted the Biden administration from contacting social media platforms unless the information is related to security threats or criminal activity. This was in a case brought by the Attorneys General of Missouri and several other states.

In what was a clear advocation for more censored speech, University of Maryland digital disinformation, deception, and influence expert Caroline Orr Bueno claimed, “The lack of enforcement of policies around hate speech, disinformation, and platform manipulation, combined with cuts to the content moderation staff and the recent loss of the head of Trust and Safety, send a message that Twitter is not serious about keeping harmful content off the platform.”

“And you can be sure that bad actors will get the message – and some of them will act on it,” Orr Bueno added. "And when that happens, it's not clear that anyone at Twitter is even equipped or empowered to detect election-related disinformation or influence campaigns, nor is there any reason to be confident that Twitter will be quick to act on something like this, given the direction that the company has gone in recent months.”

Former Head of Trust and Safety Yoel Roth left Twitter not long after Musk purchased the company. He was replaced by Ella Irwin, who announced her resignation after the Daily Wire's screening of its film "What Is a Woman?" was suppressed after previously having a deal to air the film. 

Elon Musk has expressed his desire to use Community notes to combat misinformation, as well as implementing a "Freedom of Speech, Not Reach" policy. 

Twitter Safety announced in April, “Restricting the reach of Tweets, also known as visibility filtering, is one of our existing enforcement actions that allows us to move beyond the binary 'leave up versus take down.'" It continued, "However, like other social platforms, we have not historically been transparent when we’ve taken this action. Starting soon, we will add publicly visible labels to Tweets identified as potentially violating our policies letting you know we’ve limited their visibility."

Markey told the outlet, "If Twitter truly wants to operate as the trusted, nonpartisan, accountable platform it espouses to be, especially during a contested election year, it will immediately commit to reducing misinformation and fraudulent accounts and respond to my concerns about upgrading its security and operations." 

In December, the Twitter Files revealed that the federal government regularly met with Twitter to suppress the Hunter Biden laptop story just before the 2020 presidential election. The files also showed that the government made requests for the platform to ban users for disagreeing with the mainstream Covid narrative, among other things. 

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