Twitter quietly stopped enforcing its Covid misinformation policy last week, the embattled social media company said, as new owner Elon Musk continues to transition the platform to fit his vision of freedom of speech.
Twitter users on Monday night spotted a line added to a report dedicated to Twitter’s Covid misinformation moderation that said the platform’s policy would no longer be enforced effective Nov. 23.
The company did not make a formal announcement that it was ending enforcement of the policy, but it lines up with many of Musk’s recent moves, like last week reinstating the personal account of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), who was banned in January over spreading Covid misinformation.
In 2020, Twitter began flagging posts, removing content and suspending accounts that were found to contain misinformation about Covid or any message that “could place people at a higher risk of transmitting COVID-19,” the company said.
Twitter removed 97,674 pieces of content and suspended 11,230 accounts since January 2020 under the guidelines, according to the platform.
Twitter’s previous policy of removing Covid misinformation had been lauded by health professionals like U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, who last year advised other social media platforms to take similar measures.
Musk outlined Twitter’s new policy as “freedom of speech, but not freedom of reach,” saying the platform would not promote and demonetize negative content and hate speech, and that users would only be able to find the offending tweets if they “specifically seek it out,” which is no different from the rest of the internet, Musk tweeted earlier this month.
Musk himself has repeatedly used Twitter to share questionable comments about Covid and criticize the handling of the pandemic, even before he bought the platform for $44 billion in October. Musk’s recent moves include reinstating accounts that had previously been banned, including Greene and other controversial users like former President Donald Trump.
Musk’s tenure at the tech company has been tumultuous, with Twitter losing advertising revenue as brands suspend spending over concerns of the direction Musk will lead the company.
On Monday, Musk said Apple had threatened to remove Twitter from its App Store without providing a reason. Twitter let go about half of the company’s workforce in a round of layoffs earlier this month.
On Monday, Musk tweeted that he would be releasing what he described as “the Twitter Files” on the platform’s free speech suppression.