Twitter has stepped up its efforts to combat Russian misinformation about the state’s invasion of Ukraine in a crucially nuanced way.
On Monday, Twitter’s head of site integrity, Yoel Roth, announced that the platform would begin labeling links to Russian state-affiliated news sites, like the English-language Russia Today (RT) or national news agency TASS, to make that affiliation clear. If someone tweets a link to a story from RT or TASS, for example, a warning box will appear above it with an orange exclamation point and text that reads: “Stay Informed: This Tweet links to a Russia state-affiliated media website.”
This is important context to make plain because Russian President Vladimir Putin has attempted to justify his invasion of Ukraine through misinformation and propaganda.
As Roth notes in his Twitter thread, Twitter has labeled the accounts of news organizations that serve as Russian government mouthpieces since 2020. This is similar to the approach of other outlets. Facebook and Instagram also label these outlets and their posts as “state-controlled media,” although Meta-owned WhatsApp does not appear to have a similar policy (Mashable has reached out for clarification). YouTube labels videos from these sorts of outlets, as well, although a ProPublica investigation found that its labeling often misses content.
But Twitter’s new label gets attached to tweets from anyone — not just the outlets, themselves — who shares a link to that website. Roth says that Twitter deemed this necessary because it clocked “more than 45,000 Tweets a day sharing links to Russian state-affiliated media outlets,” and decided that the “Tweets sharing their content lacked visible context.”
Twitter will begin the labeling links initiative with Russian state-affiliated media, but says it will roll out the labels for other countries in the “coming weeks.” Already, TASS — which had its website hacked with anti-war messaging Monday — has covered the move with the headline “Russian Foreign Ministry urges Twitter to label Western media outlets as state-affiliated.” Never mind that the U.S. does not have state-affiliated media outlets. But ok, TASS.