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Twitter has barred users from posting misleading information about the new coronavirus, including denials of expert guidance and encouragement of fake treatments, tightening its normally lax rules around speech.

The decision follows a similar move by social media competitor Facebook, which in January said it would take down posts with false claims or conspiracy theories about the fast-spreading virus.

Both companies said such content would now violate their policies around posts that could cause physical harm, departing from a normally hands-off approach to health content which has allowed anti-vaccination groups to thrive on their platforms.

Twitter’s new guidance, published in a blog post, said it would require people to remove content encouraging people to act against recommendations from public health authorities.

Examples it provided of statements now barred from Twitter include “the news about washing your hands is propaganda for soap companies” and “use aromatherapy and essential oils to prevent COVID-19”.