December 1, 2022

Factually is a newsletter about fact-checking and misinformation from Poynter’s International Fact-Checking Network. Sign up here to receive it in your email every other Thursday.

The latest issue of the saga we’re all tired of hearing about: Twitter, under Elon Musk, has stopped enforcing its policy on misleading COVID-19 information.

“Effective Nov. 23, 2022, Twitter is no longer enforcing the COVID-19 misleading information policy,” Twitter posted on its misinformation policy page. The page was updated without public notice, though Twitter users started commenting on the change on Monday, five days after the policy change.

The first crawl from the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine that reflects the update is on Nov. 29. The next earlier snapshot, from Nov. 11, shows the policy still in place.

From the beginning of 2020 until now, Twitter has suspended over 11,000 accounts for breaking the COVID-19 misleading information policy and —  in the wake of Musk’s decision to reinstate the accounts of people such as far-right U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Kanye West and former President Donald Trump — there has been speculation Twitter will restore all of them. 

“Cancel culture needs to be canceled!!” Musk tweeted and briefly pinned to the top of his profile Wednesday in an apparent response to the public reaction to the news.

“The other platforms are going to be keeping a close eye on Twitter and seeing essentially if they can get away with it because if they can, they can save themselves a lot of money and resources and time by following a similar model and still look good in a rolled back version,” Jenna Sherman, a program manager at Meedan — a health information nonprofit — said in a CNN interview.

The European Commission warned Musk of a Twitter ban yesterday unless it abides by “strict content moderation rules,” according to the Financial Times. 

“EU officials have expressed concerns over whether Twitter has enough staff to comply with the new rules after Musk fired more than half of its 7,500 workforce this month,” according to FT reporter Javier Espinoza.

Twitter responded in a blog post that, “None of our policies have changed. Our approach to policy enforcement will rely more heavily on de-amplification of violative content: freedom of speech, but not freedom of reach.”

In its post, Twitter also affirmed commitments against not allowing hateful conduct, abuse or any content that otherwise violates its rules. 

“What has changed is our approach to experimentation,” Twitter wrote. “As you’ve seen over the past several weeks, Twitter is embracing public testing. We believe that this open and transparent approach to innovation is healthy, as it enables us to move faster and gather user feedback in real-time.”

Interesting fact-checks


  • Teyit: The claim: the video shows a prostrate dove (Turkish) 
    • A video allegedly showing a pigeon prostrating with the congregation in Mecca has been widely shared on social media in Turkey in recent days. The pigeon in the video is seen standing with its head bent forward. The results of our research and the opinions of experts show that the pigeon in the video developed torticollis (or wryneck) due to infection. It is possible to find many videos showing pigeons in similar situations. The video was aired by some Turkish TV channels.” 
  • Reuters: Al Jazeera did not release a clip reporting that Ukrainian fans were arrested in Qatar for defacing posters with Nazi symbols (English)
    • “Qatar’s state-owned broadcaster Al Jazeera did not release a clip reporting that Ukrainian fans had been arrested during the World Cup for “spreading Nazi symbols” in Doha. No such clip was published and a spokesperson for the outlet confirmed to Reuters that the report was fabricated.” Available on Twitter here.
  •  Myth Detector: War in Ukraine or first aid training – what does the photo collage reflect (English)
    • On November 19, 20 and 21, a photo collage showing two women was circulated on Russian-language social networks and online platforms. One of them is dressed in a military uniform, while the other has a face made up with blood. According to the posts, the photos show Ukrainians fabricating scenes of Russia’s crimes for distribution in the Western media. The photographs were actually taken in 2016 and show footage of a first aid training given by the Ukrainian organization TacCat.”
  •  CNN: Examining the claim that Apple wants to remove Twitter app from the app store (English)
    • YouTube videos can be fact checks too. “CNN correspondent Donie O’Sullivan breaks down claims from Twitter CEO Elon Musk that Apple wants to remove the Twitter app from its App Store.”
  •  USA Today: False claim that map shows one eagle’s 20-year flight path (English)
    • Researchers sometimes attach GPS tracking devices to wild animals to learn more about their behavior. Some social media users are sharing a map that they claim shows the flight path of one eagle over 20 years.” However, “the post is wrong. The map shows the movements of around 20 eagles over several months, according to the researcher tracking the birds.”

Quick hits


From the news: 

  • EU warns Musk to beef up Twitter controls ahead of new rules: “A top European Union official warned Elon Musk on Wednesday that Twitter needs to strengthen measures to protect users from hate speech, misinformation and other harmful content to avoid violating new rules that threaten tech giants with big fines or even a ban in the 27-nation bloc. Thierry Breton, the EU’s commissioner for digital policy, told the billionaire Tesla CEO that the social media platform will have to significantly increase efforts to comply with the new rules, known as the Digital Services Act, set to take effect next year.” (Associated Press, Kelvin Chan)
  • Twitter says crowd-sourced fact-checking platform Community Notes updated to better address ‘low quality contributions’ “Twitter’s crowdsourced fact-checking system, Community Notes, just received an update that the company claims will help to identify more “low quality” fact checks — meaning, the notes written by Twitter users that are appended to tweets to provide further clarification and context. As a result, more of the contributors who write these unhelpful annotations will lose their writing ability, Twitter said, requiring those users to earn back their “contributor” status. (Tech Crunch, Sarah Perez)

From/for the community: 

  • Google and YouTube are partnering with IFCN to distribute a $13.2 million grant to the international fact-checking community. “The world needs fact-checking more than ever before. This partnership with Google and YouTube infuses financial support to global fact-checkers and is a step in the right direction,” said Baybars Örsek, executive director of the IFCN. “And while there’s much work to be done, this partnership has sparked meaningful collaboration and an important step.” 
  • Red Pen Reviews is an interesting new nutrition information rating project. Check it out here.
  • The International Fact-Checking Network at the Poynter Institute has awarded $450,000 in grant support to organizations working to lessen the impact of false and misleading information on WhatsApp. In partnership with Meta, the Spread the Facts Grant Program gives verified fact-checking organizations resources to identify, flag and reduce the spread of misinformation that threatens more than 100 billion messages each day. The grant supports eleven projects from eight countries: India, Spain, Nigeria, Georgia, Bolivia, Italy, Indonesia and Jordan. Read more about the announcement here.


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Seth Smalley is a reporter at Poynter and the IFCN. Get in touch at or on Twitter @sethsalex.
Seth Smalley

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