Once upon a time Twitter (now rebranded as X) routinely attempted to tag what was considered State-affiliated news sites, in an effort to highlight possible government misinformation and propaganda. After Elon Musk took over the platform at the end of last year, however, he decided to end that policy the following year. Unsurprisingly, new research shows that since Musk removed media tagging from the siteuser interaction with foreign propaganda has skyrocketed.
A new report from NewsGuard, which analyzes media trends, claims that sites like Russia’s RT and TASS, China Daily and Iran’s PressTV have seen explosions in user engagement since X dropped its media imprints in early this year. In fact, the report states that, in the 90 days after these organizations removed state-affiliated labels, engagement with posts from the English versions of their accounts skyrocketed by around 70 percent.
The report states:
Russia’s RT gained the largest share after X users no longer had access to information from the outlet, which changed its name. The most transparent Russia today was operated by the government of the country’s president, Vladimir Putin, for several years. It almost doubled its share, to 2.5 million likes and reposts from 1.3 million, after the disclosure was removed. Following the change in policy
(It should be noted that, although the United States government has accused them being propaganda outlets, some of these organizations have previously disavowed claims that they lack editorial independence. There is an ongoing argument about what exactly counts as a state-affiliated media organization.)
Foreign Propaganda Is Being Powered by X’s Algorithm, Researchers Say
Why, exactly, do users interact with this type of content so much more frequently? Well, according to the NewsGuard report, X’s own algorithm appears to amplify the content, thus creating a wider audience for it. Before Musk’s acquisition, Twitter claimed that content from state affiliated media could never be driven by its algorithm. However, NewsGuard says that since Musk’s acquisition, stories from sites like RT and China Newspapers are algorithmically recommended in users’ For You feeds with some regularity. Previous research has I highlighted this trendshowing that Musk’s changes have allowed foreign disinformation campaigns to gain increasing visibility.
NewsGuard analyst Jack Brewster told Gizmodo that it’s clear that under Musk, X now gives readers much less information about sources. from which they get their news, and that the site’s recently modified information filtering processes have clearly had a substantial effect on the way misinformation spreads on the platform.
Musk’s changes have made an already complex information landscape much more confusing
Of course, it’s important to note that Twitter/X’s misinformation problem didn’t start with Elon Musk. The platform has always been a propaganda cesspool and much of that propaganda does not originate through news organizations, whether state-affiliated or not. Armies of robots and trolls, armed by governmental agencies, political operatives, celebritiesand shady contractors, are commonly used to manipulate the flow of information on the site. It also recently came to light that, in the years prior to the launch of state-affiliated media labels, Twitter blatantly helped amplify The United States’ own propaganda efforts in the Middle East, meaning it could hardly be considered a neutral arbiter of information during that period.
Twitter’s media labeling policy, which Musk removed, was also a disaster. In particular, the platform called out state-affiliated news organizations run by geopolitical enemies (China, Russia, and Iran), but I didn’t distribute Similar labels for Western media. Radio Free Europe, the government-funded news organization that, during the height of the Cold War, received significant covert funding and programmatic direction of the CIA, and which remains funded by the government, never received the same treatment as RT or the China Daily. Voice of America, an openly state-run news network, was also never labeled until Musk showed upThese American organizations have claimed that their editorial policies differentiate them from foreign state media organizations.
Brewster readily acknowledges that the pre-Musk labeling policy had some problems, although he notes that recent changes have clearly dispensed with important barriers. which, however flimsy, were designed to combat a certain amount of information contamination on the platform.
“I don’t think Twitter before Musk did things perfectly,” Brewster said. But I think we should always try to think of new ways to give people more information instead of less, especially on social media platforms, where accountability and transparency are often side by side with neither. I think these platforms (the Internet in general) were not really designed to spread information responsibly. Instead of improving, however, this situation appears to be getting worse.
This content has been automatically translated from the original material. Due to the nuances of machine translation, there may be slight differences. For the original version, click here.