Fighting Misinformation, and Editorial Discretion

In September, Twitter closed down thousands of accounts globally which it said were spreading fake news and misinformation.  Twitter’s safety team said that it suspended many accounts in Europe and South America, as well as accounts from China.  Twitter’s move follows a trend among social media companies.  Previously, Facebook removed many fake accounts originating in the Middle East and China as well, on the grounds that they propagated fake news and misinformation.

The Balance: Fighting Misinformation, and Editorial Discretion

One of the significant external challenges that Twitter faces is the rise of political misinformation in advance of national elections in countries around the world.  As a result, the company has increased its focus on removing accounts that spread this misinformation.  Facebook and other social media companies also face this challenge.  The popularity of social media and the ease with which information can be shared on it makes it a prime area for those who wish to “win hearts and minds” with false information designed to look real.  Misinformation like this can threaten the integrity of elections by misleading voters in countries around the world.

As a result, social media platforms find themselves in a quandary:  They find themselves with a moral, and even in some cases, legal, responsibility to prevent their platforms from being used for such malicious purposes.  On the other hand, they claim to be platforms and not editors of information.  The process of weeding out and banning propagators of fake news challenges this definition, as these activities can cross the line into editorial discretion.




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