09 July 2021

Covid-related tweets have topped 112 million in UK during pandemic

09 July 2021

People in the UK have sent more than 112 million tweets about Covid-19 since the beginning of 2020, Twitter revealed as the platform defended its role as a space for “healthy conversation”.

New figures published by the social media site show that since January last year, hashtags encouraging people to stay at home to save lives and to wear a mask have dominated online discussions.

The social media company argued this showed it was succeeding in promoting healthy conversation and had updated its rules at the start of the pandemic to combat harmful content.

But the platform and wider social media have been widely criticised for the scale of misinformation and conspiracy theories that have been allowed to spread online during the pandemic, including false claims linking the virus with 5G and around vaccine safety.

Earlier this year, Home Secretary Priti Patel said the platforms had a “social responsibility” to do more to stop the spread of misinformation and should have better fact-checking procedures in place.

Twitter app (PA Archive)

In its latest figures, the firm said it had removed 37,900 tweets and “challenged” 11.5 million accounts globally for what it called “spammy and manipulative behaviour” around the pandemic.

Katy Minshall, Twitter’s head of public policy and philanthropy in the UK, pointed to the site’s work with the NHS and other health organisations to promote official guidance around the pandemic as evidence of its efforts to promote healthy conversation online.

The platform introduced a dedicated tab to direct people to verified information about the virus from official health sources, while users who search for terms linked to Covid-19 are now shown a prompt that directs them to official NHS and Government guidance on the virus and vaccine programme

The social media platform has also offered free advertising credits to non-profit organisations taking part in the global coronavirus response.

Ms Minshall said: “Twitter continues to work with local public health authorities, including the NHS, to amplify credible, verified public health information for those on Twitter.

“As well as this, it’s encouraging to see that the conversation on Twitter helped promote safe public health behaviours through the #StayAtHome hashtag.

“We continue to iterate and build on product, partnership and policy updates, keeping up with the Covid-19 conversation on Twitter.

“As we see vaccine programmes roll out around the globe, our work and partnerships in this space remain of the utmost importance in protecting the health of the public conversation.”

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