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Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Twitter backtracks after claiming it wasn’t taking action against people attempting to meddle in U.S. elections

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The issue of election interference, it turns out, is still a pretty big one, even for Twitter. On Tuesday, the company removed its previous policy that allowed it to remove the account of a political party, candidate or person.

“As we’ve continued to strengthen our policies we have found inconsistencies and gaps in our existing rules that give rise to inconsistent enforcement across our accounts,” the company said in a blog post Tuesday. “In the past, we had intended to prohibit political account maintenance and account hijacking as prohibited ‘hijacking.’”

According to Twitter, hijacking, the practice of writing, and deleting, comments on a politician’s Twitter account to cover up government activity, falls under the “tampering” section of its policies. So why, then, would the company not allow those users to remain? Hijacking could cover coordinated activity on the part of an entire party, party leader or person.

Twitter later amended its current policy in a statement: “Hijacking will continue to be allowed, as will the unrelated activity of maintaining a political account and/or highlighting a candidate’s digital footprint.”

Earlier this month, the New York Times reported that there had been multiple attempts to manipulate and destabilize the U.S. elections using fake accounts on Twitter and other social media. Though the company denied that some of the accounts had the subject matter of the world’s most hotly contested races or that the Department of Homeland Security was investigating election interference, the Times’ investigation showed that Twitter, at the very least, had identified several emerging trends and indicators that it was cooperating with the federal government.

In its blog post, Twitter called its actions on Tuesday “the next step in the evolution of our policies,” although it also said that its latest changes to its rules were still an early step and that it would continue to “review our procedures.”

“We don’t want to be naive about the challenges in this evolving area,” the company wrote. “To that end, we continue to conduct technical checks and work to better understand what accounts are complying with our policies, and what is and isn’t acceptable behavior.”

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