Coronavirus Social: Twitter Hustles to Verify Physicians

Liz Neporent

May 12, 2020

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center.

Here are three important stories for medical professionals happening on Twitter today:

Twitter Verifies More Health Experts

In an effort to counteract coronavirus misinformation on the platform, Twitter is now making the verification of physicians and other scientific experts a priority. The company already uses the coveted blue checkmark by a user's name to signify that the user is who they say they are. Now, they're hoping the checkmark will improve the quality of discourse about the virus. 

In a series of tweets, the social media giant asked COVID-19 experts who wish to be considered for verification to associate their account with an email address from an authoritative organization, and to link their Twitter bio back to their institution and vice versa.

The company has ramped up expert verification over the past couple of weeks, adding the checkmark to the accounts of more than 1000 doctors, academics, and health officials, according to the technology website,  

Twitter says they are taking recommendations from global health authorities and partners first before considering public suggestions for verification, but their process is somewhat mysterious. Although many worthy experts who tweet good information remain checkless, some newly minted accounts have already been already verified.

In a recent Medscape Medical News article, Karol Sikora, MD, a well-known British oncologist, said that he joined Twitter for the first time in late March when it became clear that COVID-19 policies in the UK meant that cancer and cardiac patients were being pushed aside. The coveted verification symbol appeared next to his handle just a few weeks later. 

Twitter Will Label Questionable COVID-19 Tweets

In addition to its verification program to fight COVID-19 misinformation, Twitter will now alert users when a tweet contains suspicious claims about the virus, the company said in a blog post yesterday.

"In serving the public conversation, our goal is to make it easy to find credible information on Twitter and to limit the spread of potentially harmful and misleading content. Starting today, we're introducing new labels and warning messages that will provide additional context and information on some Tweets containing disputed or misleading information related to COVID-19," write Yoel Roth, head of Site Integrity, and Nick Pickles, Twitter's head of Public Policy Strategy.

Earlier this year, Twitter introduced a new label for Tweets that let users know when a post contained an image or video that had been tampered with or manipulated. Similar labels will now appear on Tweets containing misleading or disputed information related to COVID-19. These warnings will inform readers that the information in the Tweet conflicts with public health experts' guidance before they view it, and may link to a Twitter-curated page or an external trusted source containing additional information on the claims made within the Tweet. Tweets deemed harmful will be taken down. 

An internal team at Twitter will decide which tweets are labeled and which are removed, the blog post explained. It also noted that the new rules will apply retroactively to older tweets. 

With this new labeling system, the micro-blogging platform joins Facebook and YouTube in a concerted effort to crack down on misleading and false coronavirus-related misinformation. 

Med Students Celebrate Virtually — and Early

Coronavirus may have robbed the medical school class of 2020 of their moment to walk across the stage and toss their hats in the air, but that hasn't stopped them from commemorating the end of their education and the start of their careers. Social media is already filling up with links to Zoom ceremonies, Facebook Live commencements, and YouTube graduations. 

Med school graduation social posts are nothing new, but this year they look different with pictures of big crowds and parties replaced with images of students celebrating in solitude and screen shots of the virtual ceremonies. And graduations are coming earlier this year. As we reported on Medscape, many med schools are graduating their classes weeks sooner than planned so this year's crop of new docs can join the fight against COVID-19.

Sumedh S. Shah, MD, posted a few shots of himself giving a virtual student address at the University of Miami's Miller School of Medicine, even indicating that he might have made a few flubs in his speech.

And one shout out from an experienced physician summed up the strange situation this year's graduating class finds themselves in:

"Those of us practicing medicine thought WE had stories to tell, but over time your experiences will eclipse us all," tweeted Mary Beth Miotto, MD, a pediatrician and public health advocate.

Liz Neporent is Medscape's executive editor of social media and community. She has previously worked at ABC News National as well as other major news outlets. She's based in New York City and can be reached at or @lizzyfit on Twitter.

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