Twitter’s pick to stop the spread of misinformation in times of crisis has a history of pushing falsehoods.
Yoel Roth, the head of Twitter’s safety and integrity unit, unveiled the site’s "crisis misinformation policy" on Thursday. In a blog post, Roth outlined how Twitter will place warning labels on tweets deemed to contain misinformation and prevent them from being "amplified or recommended" in times of armed conflict, natural disasters, or public health emergencies.
Roth is a questionable pick to launch the policy, given his own track record with misinformation. Roth oversaw Twitter’s decision to block the sharing of an October 2020 New York Post report on emails from Hunter Biden’s abandoned laptop. Roth told the Federal Election Commission he made the decision based on "rumors" shared by the United States government’s intelligence community that the Russian government might release materials hacked from Hunter Biden.
There has been no credible evidence that Biden’s laptop was hacked, or that Russia played a role in publishing emails from it. Former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey later admitted that blocking the article was "a total mistake."
Roth came under fire earlier in 2020 for referring to Trump officials as "actual Nazis" in a 2017 tweet. He also called Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) a "bag of farts."
Twitter is rolling out the policy amid a period of uncertainty for the company. Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who is seeking to buy the company, has stated his opposition to censorship on the site. He has also said Twitter has "a strong left wing bias."
The Twitter policy also comes as the federal government falters in its efforts to combat misinformation. The Department of Homeland Security scrapped its proposed Disinformation Governance Board this week following revelations that its executive director, Nina Jankowicz, pushed conspiracy theories about both the Biden laptop and claims of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Jankowicz officially resigned her post Wednesday.
Twitter did not respond to a request for comment.