A post by US President Donald Trump has been given a fact-check label by Twitter for the first time.
Twitter put a warning label in the post and linked to a page that described the claims as “unsubstantiated”.
Mr Trump on Wednesday threatened to “strongly regulate” or even “close down” social media platforms. There’s nothing about the fact-checking label that claims the tweet was wrong or contained misinformation. Instead, it simply said “Get the facts about mail-in ballots,” which could easily sound like it’s just a link to more information on what Trump was tweeting about. In short, at a glance, it could be interpreted as a link validating his claims rather than disputing them. It would be far better if the tweet was obscured entirely, similar to Twitter’s own example of labeling such misleading content.
There doesn’t seem to be any clear rules on how Twitter is applying these flags. If the tweet about election fraud was fact-checked, then surely any and all misinformation from the President should be fact-checked too. That includes his spurious conspiracy theory claims about MSNBC host Joe Scarborough allegedly being a murderer or his prior false claims as to the supposed miraculous properties of anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine. If Twitter doesn’t apply the same rigorous fact-checking standards to these other statements, then you could argue it’s implying that those statements are true, thus potentially increasing the likelihood of those false conspiracies spreading.
One of the reasons this fact-check is so surprising is that for a very long time, Twitter hasn’t taken any action when the President spread misinformation on its platform. When Trump tweeted the false claim that the Obama administration wiretapped Trump Tower, Twitter did nothing. When Trump tweeted that he “never said Russia did not meddle in the election” when he did in fact say so, Twitter did nothing.
Twitter had pledged to increase the use of warning labels about false or misleading information on its site, but has been slow to take steps against the US president.
Mr Trump posted the same claim about mail-in ballots on Facebook, but it is not fact-checked on that platform.
Mr Trump soon took umbrage that his tweet was fact-checked and subsequently claimed that Twitter was stifling his “free speech.” It would seem that no matter how neutral Twitter’s language is, it would still be accused of favoritism.