Fact Check

Is Twitter Censoring the Ukrainian Flag Emoji?

"Has anyone else gotten this popup yet or is it only us?" a viral tweet read.

Published Feb. 27, 2023

 (Walter Report/Twitter)
Image courtesy of Walter Report/Twitter
Claim:
In February 2023, Twitter alerted users they could no longer use the Ukrainian flag emoji unless they paid for "Twitter Blue" status.

On Feb. 26, 2023, a viral tweet claimed Twitter was banning users from using the Ukrainian flag emoji unless they paid for a "Twitter Blue" checkmark. The tweet was authored by @walter_report and included a screenshot of what was supposedly a notification to users about the change, reading: "Has anyone else gotten this popup yet or is it only us?"

The alleged pop-up message from the platform claimed:

Only Twitter Blue subscribers can visibly support Ukraine. It'll just take a few minutes to remove it. Displaying this flag is considered a political statement against Russia, and as a neutral platform we must moderate any political bias. Learn more about our new community guidelines. To avoid losing access to Twitter, remove the [Ukrainian flag emoji] from your profile by February 28, 2023.

The Twitter user, @walter_report, claimed to share "Breaking news, reports, and opinions from Ukraine," according to the account's bio. This account appeared to be the primary source of the claim — that is, it appeared to be the first social media account to post the alleged popup, based on our research.

This claim was false, and the alleged notification from Twitter was fake. We reached out to @walter_report to ask why it shared the rumor, and for the origin story of the screenshot. We haven't heard back, but we will update this report when/if we do.

We tested the claim by trying to post the Ukrainian flag emoji on our private Twitter accounts that do not subscribe to Twitter Blue, an "opt-in, paid subscription that adds a blue checkmark to your account and offers early access to select features, like Edit Tweet" for a price of $8 monthly or $84 annually. We were able to tweet the emoji without a problem.

While Twitter's guidelines do prohibit certain types of content, they do not ban anyone from posting about (or sharing the emoji for) the national flag of any country. Guidelines prohibit users from using violent or hateful speech, as well as promoting or encouraging suicide or self harm, child sexual exploitation, adult content, and more. Those violations are subject to a range of consequences, including suspension.

Hours after the initial tweet about Twitter supposedly censoring the Ukrainian flag, @walter_report backtracked, telling its followers that the change wasn't actually happening. "Twitter is NOT banning the [Ukrainian flag emoji]... yet," @Walter_report stated.

According to social media posts, the false claim was repeated in an article on Daily Kos, a liberal blog, that was no longer viewable at the time of this writing. (We were unable to locate an archived version of the article.)

It was also debunked by fact-checkers. BBC journalist Shayan Sardarizadeh tweeted, "It is not true that Twitter is asking users who don't subscribe to Twitter Blue to remove Ukraine's flag from their tweets and profiles, and the supposed screenshot of the request by Twitter in the tweet is clearly fake."

Given that users with or without the "Twitter Blue" status were able to use the Ukrainian flag emoji as of this writing, and the apparent source of the rumor about the alleged policy change said it wasn't actually happening, we rate this claim as "False." 

Sources

"About Twitter Blue." Twitter. https://help.twitter.com/en/using-twitter/twitter-blue. Accessed 27 Feb. 2023.

"Our Range of Enforcement Options for Violations." Twitter Help. https://help.twitter.com/en/rules-and-policies/enforcement-options. Accessed 27 Feb. 2023.

"The Twitter Rules: Safety, Privacy, Authenticity, and More." Twitter. https://help.twitter.com/en/rules-and-policies/twitter-rules. Accessed 27 Feb. 2023.

"Twitter Verification Requirements - How to Get the Blue Check." Twitter. https://help.twitter.com/en/managing-your-account/about-twitter-verified-accounts. Accessed 27 Feb. 2023.

"Walter Report." Twitter, https://twitter.com/walter_report. Accessed 27 Feb. 2023.

Nur Nasreen Ibrahim is a reporter with experience working in television, international news coverage, fact checking, and creative writing.