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An update on our continuity strategy during COVID-19

To see all of the latest steps Twitter is taking in response to COVID-19, visit covid19.twitter.com.

Updated April 1, 2020

As the entire world faces an unprecedented public health emergency, we want to be open about the challenges we are facing and the contingency measures we’re putting in place to serve the public conversation at this critical time. We are regularly working with and looking to trusted partners, including public health authorities, organizations, and governments to inform our approach.

We will keep three blog posts updated on a rolling basis and encourage everyone to consult with them regularly for updates: 

  • Our contingency strategy to protect the conversation (here)
  • Our working guidance to our employees and partners to keep them safe 
  • Our partnerships and public engagement strategies

Steps we’re taking

As we continue to provide guidance to our employees that they must work from home to support self-distancing efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19, we also need to operationally pivot our core efforts to keep people safe on Twitter.

Increasing our use of machine learning and automation to take a wide range of actions on potentially abusive and manipulative content. We want to be clear: while we work to ensure our systems are consistent, they can sometimes lack the context that our teams bring, and this may result in us making mistakes. As a result, we will not permanently suspend any accounts based solely on our automated enforcement systems. Instead, we will continue to look for opportunities to build in human review checks where they will be most impactful. We appreciate your patience as we work to get it right – this is a necessary step to scale our work to protect the conversation on Twitter.

How are we using automated technology during this time?

  • To help us review reports more efficiently by surfacing content that's most likely to cause harm and should be reviewed first.
  • To help us proactively identify rule-breaking content before it's reported. Our systems learn from past decisions by our review teams, so over time, the technology is able to help us rank content or challenge accounts automatically.
  • For content that requires additional context, such as misleading information around COVID-19, our teams will continue to review those reports manually.

What you can expect if you file a report during this time:

  • If you've reported an account or Tweet to us, it will take longer than normal for us to get back to you. We appreciate your patience as we continue to make adjustments.
  • Because these automated systems don't have all of the context and insight our team has, we’ll make mistakes. If you think we’ve made a mistake, you can let us know and appeal here

We appreciate your patience as we work to keep our teams safe, while also making sure we're protecting everyone on Twitter. You can always continue to use hide replies, mute, block, reply filters, and the other tools we offer you to control conversations on the service.

 

Keeping the service running and the Tweets flowing is one of our top priorities in these difficult times. Our work has never been more critical and our service has never been in higher demand. In the past few weeks, we have seen more and more people turn to Twitter to participate in the public conversation and follow what’s happening in real time.

  • The global conversation about COVID-19 and ongoing product improvements are driving up total monetizable DAU (mDAU), with quarter-to-date average total mDAU reaching approximately 164 million, up 23% from 134 million in Q1 2019 and up 8% from 152 million in Q4 2019. 
  • We’ve also seen a 45% increase in our curated events page usage and a 30% increase in Direct Message (DM) usage since March 6. 

While many of our teams are transitioning to working from home, some of our infrastructure teams have physical responsibilities that are critical to keeping our data centers, and Twitter, up and running. These teams are operating under the “essential services” provisions dedicated in City, County and State orders to ensure business continuity. We couldn’t keep the Tweets flowing without their daily dedication and hard work.

The combination of the new work environment and the increased load on our platform has placed unique stresses on our operations, requiring our engineering teams to work more closely together than ever to respond to new demands, and to plan for the future. From our IT, Network and Product Engineering teams to our infrastructure and data center teams, we have collectively mobilized to ensure we are able to stay safe and productive under the stress of the new levels of traffic we’re seeing on our service. 

The effects of COVID-19 on Twitter have already surpassed any event we’ve seen, and it’s possible that as the pandemic continues, we will see additional stress on our service. Beyond Twitter, COVID-19 has also had a far-sweeping impact on our supply chain partners. Whereas normally we'd have months of lead time to add hardware capacity for expected growth, in this case, manufacturing delays in China have compromised the supply chain, resulting in delays in deliveries to our data centers. Our Data Center, SiteOps, Supply Chain, Hardware Engineering and Mission Critical teams continue to manage the physical infrastructure that underlies the service -- expertly innovating to unlock additional capacity in existing supply.

Our teams are actively addressing areas where we need to add capacity to critical services, looking at how we can optimize existing technology to be more performant, and planning for how we might adjust to the way people are using Twitter during this time. 

It’s critical for Twitter to stay up and running through this global crisis. Our teams are focused, and as we make changes to our systems to meet these new demands, we will communicate openly. We will share what we’ve done, what we’ve learned, and if we see incidents, what we will do to recover as quickly as possible. Follow @TwitterEng to stay up to date. 

 

Broadening our definition of harm to address content that goes directly against guidance from authoritative sources of global and local public health information. Rather than reports, we will enforce this in close coordination with trusted partners, including public health authorities and governments, and continue to use and consult with information from those sources when reviewing content.

  • We’ll continue to prioritize removing content when it has a clear call to action that could directly pose a risk to people’s health or well-being, but we want to make it clear that we will not be able to take enforcement action on every Tweet that contains incomplete or disputed information about COVID-19. This is not meant to limit good faith discussion or expressing hope about ongoing studies related to potential medical interventions that show promise.
  • Since introducing these policies on March 18, we have removed more than 1,100 tweets containing misleading and potentially harmful content from Twitter. Additionally, our automated systems have challenged more than 1.5 million accounts which were targeting discussions around COVID-19 with spammy or manipulative behaviors. We will continue to use both technology and our teams to help us identify and stop spammy behavior and accounts.
  • We may also apply the public interest notice in cases where world leaders violate the COVID-19 guidelines.

Under this guidance, we will require people to remove tweets that include:

  • Denial of global or local health authority recommendations to decrease someone’s likelihood of exposure to COVID-19 with the intent to influence people into acting against recommended guidance, such as: “social distancing is not effective”, or actively encouraging people to not socially distance themselves in areas known to be impacted by COVID-19 where such measures have been recommended by the relevant authorities.
  • Description of alleged cures for. COVID-19, which are not immediately harmful but are known to be ineffective, are not applicable to the COVID-19 context, or are being shared with the intent to mislead others, even if made in jest, such as “coronavirus is not heat-resistant - walking outside is enough to disinfect you” or “use aromatherapy and essential oils to cure COVID-19.”
  • Description of harmful treatments or protection measures which are known to be ineffective, do not apply to COVID-19, or are being shared out of context to mislead people, even if made in jest, such as “drinking bleach and ingesting colloidal silver will cure COVID-19.”
  • Denial of established scientific facts about transmission during the incubation period or transmission guidance from global and local health authorities, such as “COVID-19 does not infect children because we haven’t seen any cases of children being sick.”
  • Specific claims around COVID-19 information that intends to manipulate people into certain behavior for the gain of a third party with a call to action within the claim, such as “coronavirus is a fraud and not real - go out and patronize your local bar!!” or “the news about washing your hands is propaganda for soap companies, stop washing your hands”.
  • Specific and unverified claims that incite people to action and cause widespread panic, social unrest or large-scale disorder, such as “The National Guard just announced that no more shipments of food will be arriving for 2 months - run to the grocery store ASAP and buy everything!”
  • Specific and unverified claims made by people impersonating a government or health official or organization such as a parody account of an Italian health official stating that the country’s quarantine is over.
  • Propagating false or misleading information around COVID-19 diagnostic criteria or procedures such as “if you can hold your breath for 10 seconds, you do not have coronavirus.”
  • False or misleading claims on how to differentiate between COVID-19 and a different disease, and if that information attempts to definitively diagnose someone, such as “if you have a wet cough, it’s not coronavirus - but a dry cough is” or “you’ll feel like you’re drowning in snot if you have coronavirus - it’s not a normal runny nose.”
  • Claims that specific groups, nationalities are never susceptible to COVID-19, such as “people with dark skin are immune to COVID-19 due to melanin production” or “reading the Quran will make an individual immune to COVID-19.”
  • Claims that specific groups, nationalities are more susceptible to COVID-19, such as “avoid businesses owned by Chinese people as they are more likely to have COVID-19.”

 

Building systems that enable our team to continue to enforce our rules remotely around the world. We’re also increasing our employee assistance and wellness support for everyone involved in this critical work, and ensuring people’s privacy and security stay a top priority. 

Instituting a global content severity triage system so we are prioritizing the potential rule violations that present the biggest risk of harm and reducing the burden on people to report them.

Executing daily quality assurance checks on our content enforcement processes to ensure we’re agile in responding to this rapidly evolving, global disease outbreak.

Engaging with our partners around the world to ensure escalation paths remain open and urgent cases can be brought to our attention.

Continuing to review the Twitter Rules in the context of COVID-19 and considering ways in which they may need to evolve to account for new behaviors.

As we’ve said on many occasions, our approach to protecting the public conversation is never static. That’s particularly relevant in these unprecedented times. We intend to review our thinking daily and will ensure we’re sharing updates here on any new clarifications to our rules or major changes to how we’re enforcing them. 

Finally, we’re encouraged that our service is being used around the world to provide free, authoritative health information, and to ensure that everyone has access to the conversations they need to protect themselves and their families. For more, our dedicated COVID-19 Event page has the latest facts right at the top of your timeline, and we’ll continue to share updates @TwitterSafety and @TwitterSupport.

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@Vijaya

Vijaya Gadde

‎@Vijaya ‎ verified

Legal, Policy and Trust & Safety Lead

@Derella

Matt Derella

‎@Derella‎ verified

Customers Lead

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