So, how did they do?
Two senior Twitter execs have shared an overview of the election safety and anti-misinformation measures put in place over the last few months.
Product lead Kayvon Beykpour and legal, policy, and trust and safety lead Vijaya Gadde published a blog post on Thursday with some new details about Twitter’s efforts to put a brake on the spread of false or misleading info.
Some interesting stats were included, especially around the slightly controversial labels flagging certain tweets (by, ahem, certain people who ended up losing elections) as containing false or disputed claims:
Approximately 300,000 Tweets have been labeled under our Civic Integrity Policy for content that was disputed and potentially misleading. These represent 0.2 percent of all US election-related Tweets sent during this time period.
456 of those Tweets were also covered by a warning message and had engagement features limited (Tweets could be Quote Tweeted but not Retweeted, replied to or liked).
Approximately 74 percent of the people who viewed those Tweets saw them after we applied a label or warning message.
We saw an estimated 29 percent decrease in Quote Tweets of these labeled Tweets due in part to a prompt that warned people prior to sharing.
They also said that the “prebunk” prompts, which reminded U.S. users of the unusual nature and expected drawn-out timelines of this particular election, were seen over 389 million times.
The increased friction on retweets — that’s the new screen that pops up when you hit the RT button, prompting you to click on any article links in the tweet if you haven’t already or to quote-tweet — led to a nearly equivalent increase in QTs and decrease in RTs (26 percent and 23 percent, respectively). But retweets and quote tweets together decreased overall by 20 percent, which the post concluded “slowed the spread of misleading information by virtue of an overall reduction in the amount of sharing”.
So bad news for those who miss the simple old RTs — the current version isn’t going anywhere, at least “for now”.
But there’s good news for the three or four people who miss the regular intrusion of random tweets from people they don’t follow into the timeline — Gadde and Beykpour’s post said there was no appreciable reduction in the spread of misinfo resulting from the pausing of the “liked by” and “followed by” recommendation feature, and it’s been turned back on as of Thursday. (The post adds that this feature will “eventually” be replaced by Topics-based recommendations.)
Trends will also see a tweak: While Trending topics or hashtags had to have contextualising info or links added by Twitter staff in order to appear in the “For You” tab, this will be wound back a bit. “While we saw a significant reduction in reports (on Trends, and Tweets within Trends result pages) as a result of this change, we also recognized that it placed a significant limitation on the number and breadth of Trends that we could show people, making ‘For You’ less relevant for many people’s interests,” the post said.
Twitter will still add extra info as much as possible — which will hopefully include “Don’t worry, they’re not dead” under any trending celebrity name — but trends will be able to appear in For You in something closer to real-time again, whether or not staff have had a chance to append that context.
The election isn’t quite over yet, thanks to pandemic-related delays in some states’ final counts, a pair of runoff elections in Georgia set for January that will determine the balance of power in the Senate, and, of course, the baseless, irresponsible insistence by Trumpworld figures that the election was “rigged.” (It was actually the most secure election in U.S. history.) Gadde and Beykpour note that “we’re still seeing record levels of election-related conversation on Twitter” and “we do not see our job as done.”
Twitter’s arguably been the most proactive of the major platforms when it comes to fighting misinformation (and its malicious sibling, disinformation), to the point where aggrieved conservatives are crying censorship and taking their coping conspiracy theories over to safe-space competitors like Parler and MeWe.
Trump may be on the way out whether he likes it or not — but misinfo and fake news aren’t going anywhere, and Twitter will still have its work cut out for it once Joe Biden takes office.