Jack Dorsey thinks Twitter needs to gauge the intent of fake news before taking action

Let’s talk about fake news.
Let’s talk about fake news.
Image: AP Photo/Richard Drew
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Jack Dorsey wants to break down the “fake news” phenomenon into smaller bits to help manage it better.

The Twitter co-founder and CEO believes “fake news as a category or misinformation as a category is just way too big” because fiction and jokes could also be classified as misinformation. Speaking at a town hall at the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi today (Nov. 12), he said the real task at hand is to identify content that “misleads people into taking an action.”

One example Dorsey mentioned was a fraudulent tweet before the US presidential election in 2016 that instructed people to send an SMS to a particular number to be registered to vote. “It was misleading people to an action, to make them think that they registered to vote so they could participate in the 2016 presidential election in the United States,” he said. “If they did that, they actually would not have been registered. That is dangerous.”

Twitter’s job, he explained, is to prevent the spread of misinformation. “If it is intending to mislead, we need to understand and pick out the misinformation and then our job is to make sure it doesn’t spread. And our job is to make sure that it doesn’t gain in impressions beyond its earned reach…and certainly not to anyone that hasn’t explicitly asked for it.”

It is unclear how Twitter plans on identifying the intent behind specific tweets.

Dorsey has been similarly circumspect about the problem of fake news in earlier appearances, stating on CNN a few months ago that it would be “dangerous” for companies like Twitter to act as “arbiters of truth.”

The micro-blogging site has come under fire both in the US and in India over the perception that it lags behind other companies in its willingness to penalise peddlers of misinformation.

Dorsey’s visit comes at a critical time for India, which is due for a general election next summer and is already dealing with rampant fake news on social media platforms. However, the attendees of today’s town hall heard little to nothing about Twitter’s India-specific plans to counter political misinformation on the site.