The tool arrives as social media companies are under continuing pressure to guard against disinformation and the spread of incendiary posts. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Russian operatives relied on every major social media platform to influence voters, spread false information and incite social divisions.
But such disinformation efforts have spread globally. Earlier this month, Facebook announced that it had purged hundreds of pages and accounts designed to mislead voters in India ahead of national elections there. In Australia, election officials created a first-of-its-kind cybersecurity task force to limit misinformation on social media in the run-up to a general election in May.
Election interference also spurred divisions during Europe’s Brexit campaign. According to European officials, pro-Kremlin social media accounts amplified Russian messaging of a European Union in disarray and sought to exploit political tensions within Western nations.
And although Russian disinformation campaigns have received sustained attention, researchers and social media platforms have identified other sources, including in India, Iran and Saudi Arabia.
“The public conversation occurring on Twitter is never more important than during elections,” Twitter said on its Web page. “Any attempts to undermine the integrity of our service is antithetical to our fundamental rights and undermines the core tenets of freedom of expression, the value upon which our company is based.”
Twitter will introduce the reporting tool on Thursday in India, where an estimated 900 million people are expected to vote from April 11 to May 19. The company said the feature will be available next week in the European Union, ahead of parliamentary elections in May, then rolled out worldwide throughout the year.
Twitter acknowledged that the company may remove flagged tweets in error, owing perhaps to a lack of context around the meaning of a tweet. To correct such mistakes, the company said it will allow users to appeal the removal of a tweet.
The announcement comes a day after Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey met with President Trump to discuss “protecting the health of the public conversation ahead of the 2020 U.S. elections,” among other matters. The private White House meeting was initiated by the president, whose daily tweets routinely spawn headlines and controversy.
The president has been an outspoken critic of the tech industry, alleging that Google, Facebook and Twitter censor conservative voices — an allegation the companies deny — and has threatened to impose new regulations on them.
The president on Tuesday also complained that Twitter was playing “political games” that have cost him followers. But the company long has maintained that follower figures fluctuate as spam accounts are shut down. In the meeting, Dorsey stressed that point, noting that even he had lost followers as part of Twitter’s efforts to enforce its policies, The Washington Post reported.