A week ago, Twitter unveiled its new ‘Super Follow’ feature, which will allow users to charge followers $4.99 a month for extra content including subscriber-only newsletters, deals and discounts, and exclusive tweets if they choose to. Twitter users were quick to bash the OnlyFans and Patreon hybrid.
This week, the social media platform has made another move bound to upset some of its users; it is working on a new strike system that could lead to some users getting permanently banned for promoting vaccine misinformation.
Like Facebook just did mid-February, Twitter had also previously banned harmful anti-vaxxer propaganda aimed at the COVID-19 vaccines out of concern that it could make people more hesitant to get vaccinated. Now, the social media platform is adding more layers to its approach in order to make it more effective—a move that other platforms like Facebook and YouTube could certainly learn from.
On Monday 1 March, Twitter announced in a blog post that tweets deemed to be harmful misinformation will be subject to labels directing people to content curated by Twitter, public health resources, or the company’s rules. At the same time, users who continue to post such tweets will be subject to a strike policy. If a user posts too much vaccine misinformation and gets five strikes, their account could be permanently deleted from the app.
“Our goal with these product interventions is to provide people with additional context and authoritative information about COVID-19,” said the company. “Through the use of the strike system, we hope to educate people on why certain content breaks our rules so they have the opportunity to further consider their behavior and their impact on the public conversation.”
The new labels and strikes mentioned above have not yet been fully rolled out. First, Twitter says that labels will only be applied by human moderators, and will start with content in English. This will allow the social network to train its algorithms to make rulings on its own, a process that will take some time to develop. As Recode reported last year, Twitter’s automated labelling appeared to flag posts that weren’t misinformation because of keywords they used.
But labels and strikes are not the only punishment Twitter has to offer against vaccine misinformation. In late January, the social media platform also announced that it was developing a new tool called Birdwatch that’s designed to crowdsource expertise and beat back false narratives in a Wikipedia-like forum eventually connected to Twitter’s main app. The company, as it has throughout the pandemic, has been trying to elevate authoritative voices like Anthony Fauci’s to speak on vaccine-related issues. It’s also working with the White House to clamp down on vaccine misinformation.
But misinformation about the coronavirus pandemic doesn’t stop at vaccines; Twitter also started applying labels to COVID-19 claims that it deemed misleading but not drastic enough for removal, such as the idea that 5G cellular networks were somehow related to it.
How well Twitter’s new policies will work in actually curbing vaccine misinformation remains to be seen. Experts have highlighted that not all content opposed to vaccines is framed in terms of factual claims, and experts have warned that simply taking down false information about vaccines isn’t always the best approach for curbing vaccine hesitancy, as we’ve seen previously with the US’ measles outbreak.
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Dating app bios have had a love-hate relationship with the pandemic. From humble toilet paper brags to puns about face masks and Purell gels, it seems as if dating profile bios have arrived at their latest pit-stop: COVID vaccination.
Keywords like “covid vaccinated” and “fully vaccinated” have started dominating bios as Tinder reported a 258 per cent rise in users mentioning the word “vaccine” between September and December 2020. OKCupid, a dating app that matches members based on multiple-choice questions, notes a 137 per cent increase in mentions of the keyword between November 2020 and January 2021.
Conversations about proper sanitation and precautions were already a turn-on for dating app users since the beginning of the pandemic. “Two out of three people are already having the ‘COVID conversation’ before they meet,” a spokesperson for Bumble explained in an interview with Tyla. “Before meeting up, 63 per cent of people had a conversation with their dates about the venue, mask-wearing and physical contact, with 80 per cent of people saying that this helped get to know their date better and feel safer.”
The latest trend of vaccination bios seems to further add on to a user’s ‘oomph’ factor. OKCupid includes a set of questions about vaccinations that users can choose to answer in order to match with potential suitors. The question “will you get the COVID-19 vaccine?” has gotten 45,000 correspondents with over 70 per cent positive responses. According to Tyla, these users are getting 2.3 times more ‘likes’ and 1.8 times more matches than those who said no.
“Not only is the vaccine becoming the biggest talking point on dating apps, it’s actually becoming a huge deal-breaker,” Michael Kaye, a spokesperson for OKCupid tells Insider. Further data collected by the app suggests that 40 per cent of millennials and gen Z users would cancel a date with someone who refuses to take the vaccine with the figure 18 per cent higher for women when compared to men.
Though most countries currently prioritise older citizens who are at the highest risk against the virus, majority of these vaccinated-hence-desirable users include key workers like health professionals and those with certain medical conditions who have been given priority in their country. Young vaccine trial participants and US citizens who have been queuing up outside pharmacies for leftover doses are among the dating app users who have been able to get a shot before others.
The trend, despite its seemingly-harmless digital nature, is not free from criticism. One of the downsides pointed out is the lack of verification of the information provided. Users could easily lie about their immunisation status online to engage with their matches who deem their interaction ‘safe’. Dating apps do not verify if someone has been immunised or not from their side either. Insider reports that these apps would not be HIPAA-compliant if they shared health information in the US.
However, the trend might signal the initiation of a greater good: winning the war against COVID-19 itself—and anti-vaxxers too. The desirability quotient related with vaccination statuses on these apps might push more users to get vaccinated, creating new dating norms like ‘vaccinate and chill’ in the process. Eagerness to get back onto the dating market additionally helps push the trend in a positive light. Overall, its ultimate benefits seem to outweigh the immediate negatives. So brace yourselves to spot profile bios in the lines of ‘Let’s rub our anti-bodies together’ soon on your favourite dating apps.