On Wednesday Twitter added new details to their regularly-updated guidance on information safety during the coronavirus pandemic, with new rules aimed squarely at conspiracy theories about 5G and COVID-19.

Broadening our guidance on unverified claims

Unverified claims that incite people to action, could lead to the destruction or damage of critical infrastructure, or could lead to widespread panic, social unrest, or large-scale disorder, such as “The National Guard just announced that no more shipments of food will be arriving for two months — run to the grocery store ASAP and buy everything” or “5G causes coronavirus — go destroy the cell towers in your neighborhood!

Twitter Safety@TwitterSafety

We have broadened our guidance on unverified claims that incite people to engage in harmful activity, could lead to the destruction or damage of critical 5G infrastructure, or could lead to widespread panic, social unrest, or large-scale disorder.Coronavirus: Staying safe and informed on Twitterblog.twitter.com

2631:05 AM – Apr 23, 2020

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The baseless conspiracy theory linking 5G towers to the novel coronavirus has been around for months, a COVID-era update to the old chestnuts about various kinds of waves or signals causing mysterious, widespread health problems. Experts have repeatedly and emphatically debunked this, with director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci calling it “thoroughly preposterous, untrue, and actually ridiculous” in a recent interview.

However, the idea that there’s a link persists, to the point where 5G towers have been attacked in the UK and Europe.

Twitter’s update comes a few weeks after the addition of guidelines around “content that goes directly against guidance from authoritative sources of global and local public health information.” Social media and other digital platforms like YouTube and WhatsApp have been working with public health organisations to fight misinformation on COVID-19 since the early days of the pandemic, but few things are as resilient as a conspiracy theory. 

This coronavirus is new, which means there’s still a lot we don’t know about how it works. The scientific detail of what we do know can also be hard for ordinary people to understand, or warped in multiple levels of simplification as news and information outlets seek to communicate each fresh development — not to mention certain public figures actively promoting false information. Speculation, paranoia, and opportunism have flourished in those blank spaces, despite the efforts of tech giants to swing into action against misinformation like they never have before.

Twitter Safety@TwitterSafety · 10h

We have broadened our guidance on unverified claims that incite people to engage in harmful activity, could lead to the destruction or damage of critical 5G infrastructure, or could lead to widespread panic, social unrest, or large-scale disorder.Coronavirus: Staying safe and informed on Twitterblog.twitter.com

Twitter Safety@TwitterSafety

Since introducing our updated policies on March 18, we’ve removed over 2,230 Tweets containing misleading and potentially harmful content. Our automated systems have challenged more than 3.4 million accounts targeting manipulative discussions around COVID-19.1351:05 AM – Apr 23, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacy68 people are talking about this

But one thing we definitely know is that 5G signals do not cause, worsen, or have any link to the coronavirus. As always, get your information from respected, verified scientific sources, not internet randos.

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