EAST LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — A Michigan State University professor and expert has spoken out against Twitter’s new COVID-19 misinformation policy.

Anjana Susarla, the Omura-Saxena professor in Responsible AI for the Eli Broad College of Business, said that the change is a significant step in the wrong direction.

Susarla listed three reasons why social media misinformation is harmful.

  • Social media enables misinformation to spread at a greater scale, speed and scope.
  • More sensational and emotion-based content is more likely to go viral on social media, making falsehoods easier to spread than the truth.
  • Digital platforms like Twitter play a gatekeeping role in the way that content is aggregated, curated and amplified.

The professor also cited the World Health Organization’s classification of pandemic misinformation as an “infodemic.

Susarla said that there is evidence of social media misinformation reducing vaccine uptake.

“Misinformation on social media fuels public doubts about vaccine safety,” said Susarla. “Studies show that COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy is driven by a misunderstanding of herd immunity and beliefs in conspiracy theories.”

As for effective content moderation, Susarla cited the U.S. Surgeon General’s 2021 advisory on social media content moderation policies.

The advisory said that policies need to do the following:

  • Pay attention to the design of recommendation algorithms.
  • Prioritize early detection of misinformation.
  • Amplify information from credible sources of online health information.