Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Twitter Attempts to Slow Spread of Misinformation About Election (2020)


            Today, Twitter is known as one of the most popular social media networks around the world. Due to the platform’s ability to comment and repost all types of media in the matter of seconds, word gets around quickly. While that may be a positive for some, it can take a devastating turn for the media fast. In recent years, Twitter has been a hot spot of conversation for political debates. Ever since the 2016 presidential election, Twitter has become one of the most common places for political misinformation to arise. In the most recent presidential election between Joe Biden and Donald Trump, the company has noticed a strong trend between the amount of false information being spread upon their newsfeed and the amount of people retweeting that information. As a result, Twitter has made a stance to try and combat fake news that has spread upon their platform. From an individualist, they would say that this case is ethical since Twitter is trying to maximize the outcome of their business by doing so within the law. From a Utilitarian, they were argue that this case was ethical, due to the company trying to maximize all of its stakeholders happiness in the long run. From an Kantian perspective, they would ultimately declare this case as ethical since Twitter was morally driven to slow the spread of fake news so that no one would be manipulated from harmful information. From a Virtue Theorist’s perspective, Twitter emphasized courage, honesty, prudence, and self-control by standing up for their company as well as providing guidance on how to handle the situation. Moving forward, Twitter needs to be ahead of its game in terms of fake news sources, and put warnings in place to caution users prior to allegations from happening. 

Ethics Case Controversy

            While Twitter is one of the most popular blogging and social media platforms in the world, it also has its downfalls in regard to the accuracy of information. Like all social media, information you find through Twitter doesn’t always represent the truth. Kate Conger, a reporter from San Francisco, stresses the significance of this issue, along with ways that Twitter had been trying to stop the spread of misinformation about the 2020 presidential election. 

A news source talks about the measures Twitter has
 taken to slow misinformation about election
             In the beginning of October 2020, Twitter noticed several hoaxes and fake tweets regarding the election in their newsfeed. As a result, according to Conger, Twitter gave users a “timeout” before they were able to hit the button to retweet a post from another account. Meaning, if someone were to try and republish more than one post about the election under a certain period of time, they would be unable to do so. Also, if users tried to share content that Twitter had flagged as false information, a notice would warn them that they are about to share inaccurate information (Conger). 

            Moreover, Twitter announced that they would be placing “warning labels” on lies posted by elected officials, along with any photos or videos posted that manipulate or deceive public viewers. Also, the company had temporarily decided to disable typical newsfeed features in order to filter out unwanted political content. For the presidential election, users were only able to see content from users they followed on their timeline. Vanita Gupta, the president and chief executive of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, stated that Twitter should consider making some of the security changes permanent due to the fact that there are other elections occurring around the world. 

            Later in October 2020, while Twitter had stated that the sole purpose of these acts is for the improvement of misinformation and integrity of the company, the Trump administration had called for a “repeal” of legal protections (Conger). Regardless, Twitter made the decision to continue doing its best on fact-checking information and provide helpful context with widespread trending topics in relation to the political debates. Ultimately, as a social media platform, Twitter has the responsibility to keep information as accurate as possible and protect the public from any inaccurate information. 


In simple terms, the stakeholders affected in this case involve everyone who holds a Twitter account. The stakeholders of this case consist of Twitter, the users of the platform, the elected officials of the presidential election, and society in general. Twitter in itself is a significant stakeholder, due to the fact that its status as a platform relies on its credibility as a company. The outcome of the company relies heavily on the users of Twitter, and whether or not they find the platform credible. If Twitter was shown to consistently promote misinformation on their platform, the credibility of their brand would plummet. The users of Twitter are stakeholders, because they rely on receiving correct, up to date information. Not only this, but Twitter users are also prone to spread the misinformation if they have not been informed, which can ultimately cause mass chaos for society and the company of Twitter as a whole. The presidential elected officials are also affected, due to their chances at presidency being jeopardized by phony information being spread. 


Twitter headquarters in San Francisco
From an individualist perspective, Twitter has been trying to do what is best for its company and what would ultimately benefit them within ethical rules. An individualist would see this case as a great example of those in the business world taking control of what would benefit them in the long run in an ethical way. Individualism focuses on the idea that “business actions should maximize profits for the owners of a business, but do so within the law” (Salazar 17). In simpler terms, businesses are concerned about actions that would benefit their employees and look of the company but do so by what is known to be morally correct in society.

In this specific case, Twitter is taking action to slow the spread of political information about the 2020 election on their timeline. By doing so, this would allow the company to be more successful, and known to be more reliable in where they receive their information. If Twitter did not take primary action into making their sources more credible, they would not look good to consumers who rely on their information as a news source. Because individualism is primarily concerned with companies making business decisions within the law, Twitter would pass the test of individualism. The company is ultimately trying to filter out unwanted information on their platform, and make sure that they are being purposely represented in a positive way. The action that Twitter is taking for its’ company allows for a positive outcome for their platform and those who take pride their information.


From a utilitarian perspective, they would view the actions of this case as ethical, as Twitter is trying to maximize the happiness in the long run of all parties involved and slow the spread of misinformation. Utilitarianism tells us that we can determine the ethical significance of any action by looking to the consequences of that act. Utilitarianism is typically identified with the policy of “maximizing the overall good” or, in a slightly different version, of producing “the greatest good for the greatest number” (Desjardins 29). In other words, it is concerned with the idea that everyone involved is satisfied with the outcome.

         Because Twitter has been trying to eliminate any misinformation that could harm the public and or elected officials, they are looking out for all stakeholders involved. For example, Twitter taking measures to slow the number of retweets and place warning labels on specific content shows that the company takes the situation seriously, and wants all of their users to be protected from false information and free from worry that they are receiving faulty news. Moreover, slowing the misinformation protects the elected officials of any possible backlash as a result from hoaxes spread upon the internet.

Twitter makes official warning labels about 
unreliable sources on its platform
        While the company did not contain a proper action plan in the beginning, the consequences of their actions ultimately make up for it. As stated, “Utilitarianism is a consequentialist ethics. Good and bad acts are determined by their consequences.” (Desjardins 30). Because Twitter was able to slow the spread of misinformation about the election, while also noting several ways they successfully removed harmful information, a utilitarian would see that Twitter’s intentions were for the greater good of society and benefit not only the public, but the United States. 


Kantianism is a very important ethical theory that involves rational decision making and making those decisions based on what is morally correct. The general ethical rule of Kantianism revolves around the formula of humanity, which is the idea to “Always act in ways that respect and honor individuals and their choices. Don’t lie, cheat, manipulate or harm others to get your way” (Salazar 21). You should always be treating others as an end, and not as a means. In other words, treat others the way you would want to be treated and don’t manipulate anyone for your own satisfaction.

        While Kantianism has similar characteristics as Utilitarianism, the Kantian perspective involves the opposite of Utilitarianism in one important respect: Utilitarianism is concerned only with consequences of an action and Kantianism does not make decisions based on consequences, but rather on what Kant calls the “Good Will.” (Salazar 21). To put that into perspective, as long as the decision was based on what would ethically be the correct decision for all individuals, it would pass the test for Kantianism.

Twitter puts warning labels on elected officials
        From a Kantian view, they would agree that Twitter’s actions in this case were morally driven. The platform was ultimately trying to keep all information factual as possible so that there was no lying or deceitful information on their platform. Because the main goal of Twitter was to slow the spread of false political information, they were doing what’s morally correct and focused on what would rationally be best for all individuals, including their Twitter users. 

        The intention of Twitter toward the users of their platform were to protect them and make sure that none were manipulated or being treated as a means. If Twitter, for example, tried to slow the stop of misinformation for the company’s gains and overall look of the platform, that would not be considered in the realm of morality for Kantianism. Slowing the stop of misleading political information provides the ability for an individual to have their own thoughts about the election, without someone or something interfering one’s own political stance. Ultimately, since the overall goal of Twitter was to protect individuals from false, harmful information about the election, it would be wise to say that this case would be acceptable under the ideas of Kantianism. 

Virtue Theory 

Virtue Theory is the idea that individuals are able to promote positive character traits in society and incorporate them into the business lifestyle. In official terms of the theory, it is to “act so as to embody a variety of virtuous or good character traits and so as to avoid vicious or bad character traits” (Salazar 22). In a lecture by Alexandre Harvard, he provides knowledge on what makes a good leader in society. Strengths he discussed included being honest, being courageous, having prudence, along with self-control.

        In this particular case, Twitter was able to come clean and fix the issues regarding political misinformation. They were honest about how they have been trying to fix it and came up with new ideas to combat the situation down the road. Honestly is the first step into becoming a good leader because if you are honest with yourself and others, you will be able to communicate more freely and feel better about yourself as a whole. Being honest ties in with morality, which determines what is right from wrong. In this case, Twitter embodied this virtue in the sense that they owned up to misinformation being tossed around on their platform. They came clean with what they have done, as well as what they have not been able to do. Courage also goes along with honesty, which allows one to speak up for what they believe in without uncertainty. Twitter had the courage to make a stance on the situation and made promising effort to analyze the situation. While there are plenty other social media sites, Twitter was one of the first platforms to try and combat the political misinformation. A good leader in virtue theory also reflects prudence, which involves being cautious or alert to what is being said or done around you. Always taking in the information and analyzing situations before making any sudden movements. In the beginning, Twitter was not as cautious to the idea that fake news could be spread upon fast. However, they were able to make up for it by analyzing the situation and provide ways to slow retweets on their timeline. Lastly, going along with prudence, a good leader maintains self-control. In other words, one is able to hold ground while also being cautious about what they say. Twitter was able to maintain self-control while trying to pinpoint the problem happening with the election. 

Justified Ethics Evaluation 

In my opinion, the idea that a social media platform was morally driven and able to successfully remove unwanted political information about the election shows that they are doing what is considered ethically correct within society. When the company first noticed the issue, they quickly responded with several ways to counteract the spread of misinformation. Twitter did not deny any allegations about misinformation they were spreading or cover up any lies shown on their newsfeed. Twitter ultimately owned up to the situation, and made a stance to improve their platform moving forward. Because of this fact alone, I believe that their intention to try and slow the spread of political hoaxes was for the greater good of society and all stakeholders involved. 

  Nowadays, it is not uncommon to see social media platforms contain misinformation. Given that there are millions of Twitter users, it is incredibly difficult to make sure that every single comment or retweet posted is reliable within its database. It would be unreasonable to assume that one could remove every single unreliable tweet or retweet off of its timeline. With that information, however, while I do think that it is nearly impossible for the company to remove every single piece of misinformation, Twitter as a whole could have taken the matter more seriously back during the 2016 election. If the company had taken more measures when political issues started to arise on social media, they may not have had issues to combat to begin with. Regardless of how one views the case, the company was able to fight off the misinformation about the election. 

Action Plan 

The issue Twitter is experiencing results from the lack of experience the company has in regard to the spread of political misinformation. The company was not previously aware of the dangerous outcomes of the election, or what types of issues would eventually arise on their platform. While Twitter was able to slow the spread of misinformation on its platform, they could have have put these measures in place before the spark of debate from the election. Ultimately, it is Twitter’s responsibility to make sure proper actions are put in place before the rise of political backlash. 

Twitter’s current mission statement of policy involves the idea of users being free to share whatever they want. “The mission we serve as Twitter, Inc. is to give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly without barriers. Our business and revenue will always follow that mission in ways that improve – and do not detract from – a free and global conversation” (Twitter). While this may seem like a clear succinct mission statement, Twitter could have replaced the phrase “without barriers” with something more clear cut to emphasize the idea of free will. 

        A new mission statement for the company could be something that still revolves around the idea of being free, but also allowing that privilege within reason. My recommendation would be to say “The mission we serve as Twitter, Inc. is to give our users the ability to create and share ideas and information instantly, while protecting the well-being of society, allowing ideas to promote positivity, as well as contain accurate information as much as possible. Our business and revenue will always follow that mission in ways that improve – and do not detract from – a free and global conversation. This new mission statement focuses on the idea that while Twitter still wants their users to feel free to contribute whatever ideas they please, the ideas put onto their platform must be within reason and promote a positive atmosphere for everyone involved. While there is bound to be misinformation on its platform, they would be able to promote how Twitter only tolerates accurate information that brings out the greater good of society.


ABC News, ABC News Network, 

Bond, Shannon. “Twitter Says Steps To Curb Election Misinformation Worked.” NPR, NPR, 12 Nov. 2020, 

Conger, Kate. “Twitter Will Turn Off Some Features to Fight Election Misinformation.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 9 Oct. 2020,  

DesJardins, Joseph; DesJardins, Joseph. An Introduction to Business Ethics (p. 25). McGraw-Hill Higher Education. Kindle Edition.

Hatmaker, Taylor. “What Social Networks Have Learned since the 2016 Election.” TechCrunch, TechCrunch, 2 Nov. 2020, 

The Business Ethics Case Manual, Western New England University, Massachusetts.

West, Darrell M. “How to Combat Fake News and Disinformation.” Brookings, Brookings, 18 Dec. 2017, 

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