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Photo illustration: Omar Marques/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Twitter on Tuesday announced a new policy aimed at discouraging the spread of deepfakes and other manipulated media, but the service will only ban content that threatens people's safety, rights or privacy.

Why it matters: Tech platforms are under pressure to stanch the flow of political misinformation, including faked videos and imagery. Twitter's approach, which covers a wide range of material but sets narrow criteria for deletion, is unlikely to satisfy critics or politicians like Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi — who have both slammed platforms for allowing manipulated videos of them to spread.

Details: Starting next month, Twitter will be working to identify media that, according to a Tuesday blog post, has been "significantly and deceptively altered or fabricated."

  • That includes deepfakes — digital forgeries that use AI to generate fake footage — as well as media that's been more crudely manipulated, such as by cropping out part of a video, changing its speed or dubbing in different audio.

Yes, but: The company only expects to delete manipulated content that's shared with the intention of deceiving people and, crucially, that's likely to cause harm. Per the blog post, examples of potential harm include:

  • Threats to the physical safety of a person or group.
  • Risk of mass violence or widespread civil unrest.
  • Threats to the privacy or ability of a person or group to freely express themselves or participate in civic events, such as stalking or unwanted and obsessive attention; targeted content that includes tropes, epithets or material that aims to silence someone; voter suppression or intimidation.

Manipulated media that doesn't fit all criteria for removal may be:

  • Labeled as misleading.
  • Affixed with a warning that people see if they try to like or retweet it.
  • Get algorithmically downranked so that, for instance, it doesn't show up in users' content recommendations.

For the record: Those criteria mean the viral video of Pelosi that had been slowed down to make her seem drunk would be labeled but not removed under the new policy, Twitter's head of site integrity Yoel Roth said on a press call.

The bottom line: Twitter is going noticeably broader with its manipulated media rules than Facebook, which announced its own policy last month.

  • Twitter's ban covers deceptively manipulated content, whether AI-generated "deepfake" or cruder "cheapfake," that's likely to cause harm.
  • Facebook's ban is specifically limited to misleading videos that have been manipulated by AI- or machine-learning-based tools. Cruder fakery could still get flagged and fact-checked under Facebook’s overall misinformation policy.

Yet critics of how tech has handled misinformation likely won't be satisfied, since the hard ban will probably rarely apply.

What's next: Twitter will start enforcing the policy March 5. To identify manipulated media, it will draw on assistance from crowd-sourced content reports as well as outside partners.

  • Partners that offered feedback as Twitter was developing the policy were Witness; Paul Barrett, deputy director of NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights; and the Oxford Reuters Institute, a Twitter spokesperson told Axios.

Go deeper:

Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to reflect that the outside parties gave feedback on the policy, not that they are launch partners. It has also been further updated to lay out more clearly the distinctions between Twitter's and Facebook's policies.

Go deeper

In photos: Drought-ravaged California lashed by major storm

Workers try to divert water into drains as rain pours down on Oct. 24 in Marin City, California. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

A major storm system was pummeling Northern California and parts of the Pacific Northwest with heavy rains overnight.

The big picture: "Atmospheric river" storms, associated with a record-strong "bomb cyclone" offshore from the Pacific Northwest, have brought flooding and mudslides to parts of California that were razed by recent wildfires and in severe drought. It's also caused widespread power outages in California, Oregon and Washington state.

"Atmospheric river" swings Northern California from drought to flood

Satellite view of the bomb cyclone swirling off the coast of the Pacific Northwest and the atmospheric river affecting California on Oct. 24. Photo: CIRA/RAMMB

A series of powerful "atmospheric river" storms are delivering historic amounts of rainfall across parts of drought-stricken California and the Pacific Northwest — triggering widespread power outages and flooding.

Why it matters: The strong atmospheric river, packing large amounts of moisture, is causing Northern California to whiplash from drought to flood.

2 hours ago - World

Sudan's military places civilian prime minister under house arrest

Sudanese Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok during a 2020 news conference in Khartoum, Sudan. Photo: Mahmoud Hjaj/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Sudan's civilian Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok was put under house arrest and several other ministers were also detained Monday in what appears to be a military coup in the country, per local reports.

Why it matters: The arrests of the civilian faction in the Sudanese government came a day after U.S. envoy Jeffrey Feltman met with the head of the military faction of the Sudanese government General Abdul Fattah al-Burhan and warned him against staging a coup.