Twitter has, for the first time, prompted readers to check the facts in tweets sent by US President Donald Trump, warning that his claims about mail-in ballots were false and had been debunked by fact-checkers.
The move marked a dramatic shift for the social network, Trump’s primary tool for getting an unfiltered version of his message out to his political base, after years of permissive policies around content on its platform.
The company has been tightening those policies in recent years amid criticism that its hands-off approach had allowed abuse, fake accounts and misinformation to thrive.
Trump lashed out at the corporate in response, accusing it – during a tweet – of interfering within the 2020 presidential election.”Twitter is totally stifling FREE SPEECH, and I, as President, won’t allow it to happen!” he said.
Trump, who has quite 80 million followers on Twitter, claimed in tweets earlier within the day that mail-in ballots would be “substantially fraudulent” and end in a “rigged election”. He also singled out the governor of California over the difficulty , although the state isn’t the sole one to use mail-in ballots.
Hours later, Twitter posted a blue exclamation point alert underneath those tweets, prompting readers to “get the facts about mail-in ballots” and directing them to a page with information aggregated by Twitter staffers about the claims.
A headline at the highest of the page stated “Trump makes unsubstantiated claim that mail-in ballots will cause voter fraud,” and was followed by a “what you would like to know” section addressing three specific claims made within the tweets.
Trump posted an equivalent text about mail-in ballots on his official Facebook page, where the post picked up 170,000 reactions and was shared 17,000 times.
Facebook’s policy is to get rid of content that misrepresents methods of voting or voter registration, but during this case, it left the post untouched.
“We believe that folks should be ready to have a strong debate about the electoral process, which is why we’ve crafted our policies to specialise in misrepresentations that might interfere with the vote,” a Facebook spokesman told Reuters.
Twitter said the appliance of a fact-checking label to the president’s tweets was an extension of its new “misleading information” policy, introduced earlier this month to combat misinformation about the coronavirus.
It said at the time that it might later extend the COVID-19 policy to other sorts of disputed or misleading information.
Twitter, so far, has used its policies sparingly against important political figures, but has deleted tweets by the presidents of Brazil and Venezuela which it said violated its coronavirus rules.
Asked about the Scarborough tweets, a Twitter spokeswoman said the corporate was expanding its products and policies to deal with such tweets more effectively within the future. She didn’t elaborate.