Twitter on Thursday said that it will add labels to identify more state-affiliated accounts, including the personal accounts of world leaders, to give users more context for geopolitical conversations on the platform. The company said it would expand the move to many countries, including the Group of Seven, but India did not figure in the list.
Twitter and India are locked in a row after the social media company refused to fully comply with the government order to remove over 1,100 accounts. The government claimed the said accounts were using provocative hashtags to spread misinformation about the farmers’ protests against the agriculture laws.
But Twitter said these demands of the government were inconsistent with the Indian law. It refused to outright ban the handles, but imposed restrictions on some of them within India. The social media platform also refused to remove accounts of news organisations, journalists, activists and politicians, citing its “principles of defending protected speech and freedom of expression”.
In a blog post, Twitter said the roll-out will begin from February 17 in Canada, Cuba, Ecuador, Egypt, Germany, Honduras, Indonesia, Iran, Italy, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Spain, Thailand, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates.
In August, Twitter had expanded account labels to two additional categories – the accounts of key government officials and those belonging to state-affiliated media entities. This was done in China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States – the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.
“We’re also updating the label text to add more specificity to the government account labels by differentiating between individuals and institutions, and expanding labels to the personal accounts of heads of state to give people on Twitter additional context,” the social media platform said.
In the next phase of the project, the company said it will apply additional labels on state-affiliated media accounts over the next several months.
Twitter said that it is an important step so that when people see an account discussing geopolitical matters from another country, they know about the account’s affiliation and are better informed about who they represent. “We’re also focused on those within the respective administrations underneath the head of state that offer its policy perspective abroad,” it said.
The social media platform said that for clarity, if people click on the labels, they would be taken to the blog explaining the company’s policy.
The company also said in a tweet that it will no longer include state-affiliated media accounts or their tweets in recommendations in a bid to “support a free and independent press”.
“The immediate next phase will be to apply these labels to state-affiliated media entities of these phase two countries [beginning February 17],” Twitter said. “Beyond this, we will continue expanding labels to additional countries over time and look forward to providing additional updates as those plans take shape.”
When asked how Twitter would determine government labels in situations such as in Myanmar where the military recently seized power in a coup, Twitter’s Global Public Policy Director, Nick Pickles, said the company was not labeling countries where the government was in dispute, reported Reuters.
“We will take into account the international discussion about the legitimacy of the government when we are considering if it’s appropriate to apply these labels,” Pickles said in an interview.
He said that the labels would only be added to verified accounts. For instance, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei would not get a label as his account is not verified, but Foreign Minister Javad Zarif would.