May 24, 2024

Twitter is no longer taking steps to limit the reach of Chinese and Russian state-controlled media outlets, violating the social media platform’s own stated policies.

In 2020, Twitter started labeling official government and state-controlled media accounts, and blocked the latter from appearing in search results. The platform announced last year that it would also begin flagging tweets that contained links to government-controlled sites such as RT.com or the Global Times, telling users to “Stay informed” and alerting them that Russia or China had editorial control over the outlet’s coverage.

But in tests conducted by Semafor, the “Stay informed” labels no longer appeared, even though Twitter’s state-affiliated media policy still continues to list the measure as one way it’s providing “additional context for accounts heavily engaged in geopolitics and diplomacy.” And when Semafor searched for Russian and Chinese state-affiliated outlets like Izvestia, Xinhua, and the People’s Daily, their official accounts showed up as some of the top results.

The changes could alienate advertisers as Twitter tries to find new ways to boost revenue. The company is now charging $8 a month for the blue verified check mark once reserved for journalists, celebrities, and other public figures. Last month, CEO Elon Musk said Twitter had seen a 50% drop in ad sales since he took over in October.

Voice of America reporter Wenhao Ma previously reported that Twitter was no longer fully enforcing its state-affiliated media policy. Ma found that the platform had begun automatically recommending Chinese government-backed publications to users through its For You page, which is controlled by an algorithm.

Twitter, which has eliminated its communications department, returned an emailed request for comment with an automated reply of a poop emoji. Ella Irwin, Twitter’s current vice president for trust and safety, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.