Twitter vows to work alongside Australia in thwarting foreign interference

The social media giant says the best way to avoid foreign interference on its platform is through collaboration with government entities, civil society experts, and industry peers.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

When it comes to thwarting foreign interference through social media platforms, Twitter believes what is important is to approach the issue as a broad geopolitical challenge, not one of content moderation, saying that government needs to assume some of the responsibility.

"Removal of content alone will not address this challenge and while it does play an important role in addressing the challenge, governments must address the broader landscape," Twitter said.

"We do not elevate our own values by seeking to silence those who do not share them. In fact, we undermine these principles and erode their global accessibility."

The comments were made in Twitter's submission [PDF] to the Select Committee on Foreign Interference through Social Media, which is currently looking into risks posed at Australia's democracy by foreign interference through social media.

"The purpose of Twitter is to serve the public conversation. We serve our global audience by focusing on the needs of the people who use our service, and we put them first in every step we take," it wrote.

"We work with commitment and passion to do right by the people who use Twitter and the broader public."

Having provided the submission prior to United States President Donald Trump accusing Twitter of "interfering" with the 2020 presidential election, after the company slapped fact-checking links on his tweets that claimed mail-in voting leads to a "rigged election", Twitter said protecting election integrity does not end with an election period.

Read more: Trump and Twitter. Why they just can't quit each other

"As the challenges evolve, so will our approach," it said. "We will continue to work with peers and partners to tackle issues as they arise, with collaborations across government institutions, civil society experts, political parties, candidates, industry, and media organisations as we move towards our common goal of a healthy and open democratic process."

In its nine-page submission to the committee, the social media said the foremost challenge on the matter is for governments to communicate to build public trust by "directly engaging with the conflicting narratives propagated on and offline by foreign actors".

"Through clear and concise electoral regulations, companies are able to navigate and address relevant interference concerns. Additionally, public trust can be built through clear communication and strong attribution to address transparency issues related to interference," Twitter said.

It pointed to the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC), throughout the 2019 federal election, taking a leadership role in engaging with the public conversation on Twitter to provide "clear, credible information", saying this helped direct voters to reliable resources.

"Through transparent communication and enabling voters to access the information they need, the Australian government can foster a sense of trust and encourage freedom of discussion reflective of the implied freedom of political communication embodied within the Australian Constitution," it said.

See also: Facebook says people, not regulators, should decide what is seen

Twitter said its work on the issue was not done. It said coordinated inauthentic behaviour would not cease and that the issues outdate Twitter's existence.

"They will adapt and change as the geopolitical terrain evolves worldwide and as new technologies emerge," it said. "Given this, the threat we face requires extensive partnership and collaboration with government entities, civil society experts, and industry peers.

"We each possess information the other does not have, and our combined efforts are more powerful together in combating these threats."

Twitter said foreign interference is an unavoidable part of a globalised communications landscape and said policy makers should seek to build resilience and digital literacy to protect against activity, while "taking the necessary steps to inform the public of the facts on key public policy issues, defending domestic policy, and advocating against hostile actors where necessary".


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