Twitter for the first time has decided to fact-check President Donald Trump’s tweets. But in response, the commander in chief is vowing to fight back.
Twitter applied the fact checks on two tweets Trump made on Tuesday concerning mail-in ballots, which the President is against expanding. “There is NO WAY (ZERO!) that Mail-In Ballots will be anything less than substantially fraudulent,” Trump claimed. “Mail boxes will be robbed, ballots will be forged & even illegally printed out & fraudulently signed.”
The President went on claim mail-in ballots being distributed in California will lead to a “rigged election” come November. But hours later, Twitter decided to label the tweets with a button underneath that says “Get the facts about mail-in ballots.”
Users who click on the button will then be taken to a Twitter page that says Trump is making an “unsubstantiated claim” that mail-in ballots will lead to voter fraud. It includes links to a variety of new sources, such as CNN and The Washington Post, covering the topic. The same page also states that fact-checkers have uncovered no evidence linking mail-in balloting to widespread election fraud.
According to a Twitter spokesperson, the company decided to apply the fact-checks on Trump’s tweets about the mail-in ballots because they contain “potentially misleading information about voting processes.” This represents a violation of Twitter’s policy on safeguarding elections from manipulation.
The disclaimers have sparked Trump to respond with a combative tweet suggesting he’ll try to rein in the social media service with government regulation. Ironically, the President is claiming Twitter itself is trying to interfere with the US election by trying to fact-check his tweets.
“…Twitter is completely stifling FREE SPEECH, and I, as President, will not allow it to happen!” he said in a tweet later today.
Normally, Twitter would temporarily lock out or ban a user after tweeting misleading information about an election. But in this case, the company has decided to merely fact-check the President with a disclaimer. The reasoning is because Twitter has a policy of protecting tweets from world leaders when the information is found to be “newsworthy and in the legitimate public interest.”
However, we’re doubtful the fact-checks from Twitter will blunt the misinformation. Despite the company’s attempts to place the disclaimer, the two tweets from Trump have together managed to get over 150,000 likes from users.
Another problem is the “Get the facts about mail-in ballots” button. At first glance, it looks more like an endorsement to Trump’s tweets instead of a warning about the misleading information the President is trying to promote. It’s up to the user to click on the button to understand more.
The bigger question is whether Twitter will expand the fact-checks to others tweets made by Trump. But for now, the company is refraining from placing them on statements the President has made regarding the death of Lori Klausutis, an intern for former congressman and MSNBC host Joe Scarborough. According to medical examiners, Klausutis died from an undiagnosed heart problem. However, Trump has been falsely claiming on Twitter and in press conferences that Scarborough may have been responsible for her death.
The issue prompted Klausutis’ widow to request the social media company delete the tweets from Trump, citing how they violate the company’s own rules on abuse. Twitter is declining to fulfill the request. Instead, the company is indicating it plans on placing a warning label on future tweets from Trump that refer to conspiracy theories around Klausutis’ death.
“We are deeply sorry about the pain these statements, and the attention they are drawing, are causing the family,” the company told PCMag. “We’ve been working to expand existing product features and policies, like the labels you’re seeing today, so we can more effectively address things like this going forward. We hope to have those changes in place shortly.”