Finland’s Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) has temporarily discontinued use of its official account on Twitter, saying it has become increasingly concerned about misinformation and conspiracy theories being perpetuated on the social media platform.
A spokesperson for THL – an R&D institute operating as part of Finland’s Ministry of Social Affairs and Health – told local newspaper Helsingin Sanomat that it has become alarmed by inappropriate responses to its tweets, generated across multiple Twitter accounts.
It has almost 95,000 followers on its main account @THLorg, with thousands more on secondary accounts like @THLresearch, an English language vehicle for research-based information on health and welfare.
Marjo Loisa, the director of communications at THL, told the newspaper that “90% of tweets related to the coronavirus are highly inappropriate, and people are joining other discussions with disinformation as well.”
It will continue to maintain a presence on Linkedin, Facebook and Instagram, where interaction is still “meaningful and constructive,” she told the newspaper. There’s little doubt that the decision by a national R&D organisation to give up on Twitter undermines its standing as a tool for business and serious debate.
The institute’s decision comes a few weeks after Twitter ceased enforcing its COVID-19 misinformation policy that prohibits misleading information about SARS-CoV-2, one of a raft of policy changes at the social media giant following its acquisition by Elon Musk.
The move reversed a major clampdown on COVID-19 misinformation that had seen Twitter suspend more than 11,000 accounts under a ‘five-strike’ policy implemented early on in the pandemic. Since its inception in March 2020, 11.72 million accounts were challenged and 97,674 pieces of global content removed up to September 2022.
Musk’s takeover has been marked by a number of other controversial developments, not least the rollout of $7.99 ‘blue ticks’ signifying an accredited account that saw top companies, including Eli Lilly, trolled by impersonators. Lilly is reported to have axed its advertising on Twitter as a result.
Loisa told Helsingin Sanomat that the situation has deteriorated to the extent that it has become difficult for THL to fulfil its brief of communicating information about the coronavirus and COVID-19 vaccines to the public.
While the platform remains a good place for social discussion it does not function well as a “citizen communication channel,” so THL will only interact with it via the accounts of individual projects and employees.
“The discussion culture we encounter on Twitter does not align with our world values,” she said, adding that it has taken considerable effort to clean up the account over the last year. Many Twitter users spreading misinformation in comments are anonymous, with no followers of their own.
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