Ahead of US midterms in November, Twitter will today introduce new labels—distinct from the standard verified badge—for political candidates using its service.
The introduction of special badges is part of a broader policy to combat the spread of misinformation—a tactic used by Russia in the 2016 presidential election to influence public opinion. Twitter has also introduced regulation for political ads on its service; all advertisers must verify their identity and certify US residence.
As political ads and accounts impersonating politicians have been a particularly potent weapon in stirring emotion and influencing opinion—some 3000 ads were purchased by Russia—Twitter’s policy changes should help to prevent election tampering.
But bots could remain a major and specific problem for Twitter. Indeed, the use of bots to spam and get certain hashtags trending could be a popular means of influencing opinion, but not necessarily the vote, in the coming midterms—Russian linked accounts got #VoteforRoyMoore trending in the recent Alabama vote. As such, expect a prolonged struggle for Twitter in preventing misinformation proliferation on its platform.
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Alex is a senior analyst in the Current Developments team with a primary focus on the Americas. He also serves as an editor on The Daily Brief.