Twitter relaxes crackdown on Chinese and Russian state media

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Twitter has stopped taking steps to limit the reach of Chinese and Russian state-controlled media outlets, violating its own policies laid out in 2020.

In the past, Twitter has tagged official government media accounts and blocked their appearance in search results.

Twitter de-prioritized its long-standing state media policies

However, in tests conducted by information security company Semafor, “Stay informed” tags no longer appear where they used to, and Russian and Chinese state-affiliated media appeared as some of the top search results.

It is worth noting that this decision could alienate advertisers at a time when Twitter tries to find new ways to increase revenue. The company now charges $8 a month for the verified blue check mark, once reserved for journalists, celebrities and other public figures. CEO Elon Musk said last month that Twitter had seen a 50% drop in ad sales since he took over in October.

Twitter’s content moderation has changed significantly since Musk took office. He laid off much of the company’s trust and security teams, and former department head Yoel Roth resigned. The site struggled to combat issues like phishing, with experts saying the amount of hate speech was skyrocketing.

According to the Semafor publication, Twitter users noticed on Tuesday night that the platform had added a label of “US State Affiliated Media.” to the official account of National Public Radio. The social network previously said it would not place the hashtag on media such as “the BBC in the UK or NPR in the US.” because they maintain editorial independence. However, the NPR name later disappeared from the Twitter website.

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One of the most pressing questions when Musk bought Twitter was how he would treat accounts associated with the Chinese government, given that one of his other companies, Tesla, has significant business interests in the People’s Republic. It is now clear that posts from China have more reach on the site than before he took over.

This decision by Twitter to relax with the state-backed media could be part of an overall business strategy, rather than a Musk-mandated directive. With drastically fewer engineers working at the company, it’s also possible that technical issues are the reason why Twitter is no longer fully enforcing its rules.