Twitter cracks down on COVID vaccine misinformation with ‘strike’ system

By AviYonce Scott, Technology Editor

Originally posted April 8, 2021.


On Monday Mar. 1, Twitter announced that it will start labeling tweets that share misleading information about COVID-19 vaccines. The labels will include a warning that the tweet may be misleading and a link to verified information from sources such as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.


Additionally, the social media giant is introducing a ‘strike’ system that will hold users accountable for repeated violations of the new policy.

(Source: Twitter Safety/Example of COVID-19 misinformation label)

Since the platform has launched the system, Twitter has removed over 8,000 Tweets and challenged around 11.5 million accounts across the globe.


“We believe the strike system will help to educate the public on our policies and further reduce the spread of potentially harmful and misleading information on Twitter, particularly for repeated moderate and high-severity violations of our rules,” Twitter Safety wrote on its blog.


The new strike system that enforces accountability across a five tier violation structure corresponds to different punishments ranging from warning without action to permanent suspension:

  • One strike: no account-level action

  • Two strikes: 12-hour account lock

  • Three strikes: 12-hour account lock

  • Four strikes: 7-day account lock

  • Five or more strikes: permanent suspension

Dr. Theodore Gournelos, an ODU professor

Twitter’s updated guidelines on COVID-19 misinformation

The platform has also published specific policy guidelines as to what content will be labeled or removed if it is considered false or misleading. The policy is outlined within five categories:


The first prohibits false or misleading content about “the nature of the virus” which includes how it’s transmitted, who is susceptible, misleading instructions of self-diagnosis, and conspiracy theories.


The second prohibits false or misleading content about how safe or effective treatments and other precautions are to treat COVID-19. This means that promotion of unapproved preventative measures or drugs is prohibited as well as the sale of medicines that require a prescription from a doctor. The second category also prohibits rhetoric that suggests vaccines are intended to harm or “control populations” and suggestions of adverse effects from being vaccinated.


The third prohibits misleading information about official regulations “pertaining to health advisories. This includes false claims about the effectiveness of PPE and preventative measures such as hand-washing and social distancing. It also prohibits misleading information about curfews, lockdowns, quarantine protocols, and how vaccines are developed and tested by health agencies.


The fourth category bans false or misleading information about test results, hospitalizations, mortality rates, the availability of PPE, ventilators, doctors, and hospital capacities. This category also prohibits “unsubstantiated conclusions” about statistical data in research findings with the intention to diminish the seriousness of COVID-19.


The fifth and final category strictly prohibits fake accounts that falsely affiliates itself with a medical practitioner, public health official or agency, or other verifiable institutions.


Twitter says it’s goal is to eventually use both automated and human review to address content that violates their COVID-19 vaccine misinformation rules.