FILE PHOTO: US President Donald Trump gestures as he leaves after an event on protecting seniors with diabetes in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC, on May 26, 2020. (Photo: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
Eastern Eye Staff
DONALD TRUMP has alleged that Twitter was “interfering” in the US election and “completely stifling” free speech, after the social media network placed a fact-checking warning under one of his tweets for the first time.
Twitter on Tuesday (26) prompted readers to check the facts in the US president’s tweets, warning that his claims about mail-in ballots were false and had been debunked by fact checkers.
Trump had tweeted that mail-in ballots were “fraudulent” and warned that “mail boxes will be robbed”.
The ‘fact-check’ move marked a dramatic shift for Twitter, 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.
“Twitter is now interfering in the 2020 Presidential Election. They are saying my statement on Mail-In Ballots, which will lead to massive corruption and fraud, is incorrect, based on fact-checking by Fake News CNN and the Amazon Washington Post….,” Trump tweeted on Tuesday (26).
“Twitter is completely stifling FREE SPEECH, and I, as President, will not allow it to happen!” he said in another tweet.
….Twitter is completely stifling FREE SPEECH, and I, as President, will not allow it to happen!
Twitter had recently introduced the new fact checking system to combat misinformation.
“Get the facts about mail-in ballots,” read the message beneath each tweet and it took a reader to a new page having links to various news reports from media outlets like The Washington Post and the CNN.
“There is NO WAY (ZERO!) that Mail-In Ballots will be anything less than substantially fraudulent. Mail boxes will be robbed, ballots will be forged & even illegally printed out & fraudulently signed. The Governor of California is sending Ballots to millions of people, anyone…..,” Trump had tweeted.
Soon thereafter, Twitter posted a message at the bottom of this tweet.
“Twitter has placed a fact-checking warning on a tweet issued by President Trump in which he claims without evidence that mail-in ballots are fraudulent,” NPR reported.
Twitter spokesman Trenton Kennedy told the NPR that while the tweet about mail-in voting did not violate Twitter’s rules since “it does not directly try to dissuade people from voting”, it contained “misleading information about the voting process, specifically mail-in ballots”.
The Trump Campaign alleged that Twitter was interfering with the president getting his message through to voters.
“We always knew that Silicon Valley would pull out all the stops to obstruct and interfere with President Trump getting his message through to voters,” Brad Parscale, Trump 2020 campaign manager said.
“Partnering with the biased fake news media ‘fact checkers’ is only a smoke screen Twitter is using to try to lend their obvious political tactics some false credibility. There are many reasons the Trump campaign pulled all our advertising from Twitter months ago, and their clear political bias is one of them.”
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 company in response, accusing it – in a tweet – of interfering in the 2020 presidential election. “Twitter is completely stifling FREE SPEECH, and I, as President, will not allow it to happen!” he said.
Trump, who has more than 80 million followers on Twitter, claimed in tweets earlier in the day that mail-in ballots would be “substantially fraudulent” and result in a “rigged election.” He also singled out the governor of California over the issue, although the state is not the only one to use mail-in ballots.
Hours later, Twitter posted a blue exclamation mark 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 top of the page stated “Trump makes unsubstantiated claim that mail-in ballots will lead to voter fraud,” and was followed by a “what you need to know” section addressing three specific claims made in the tweets.
Trump posted the same 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 remove content that misrepresents methods of voting or voter registration, but in this case it left the post untouched.
“We believe that people should be able to have a robust debate about the electoral process, which is why we have crafted our policies to focus on misrepresentations that would interfere with the vote,” a Facebook spokesman told Reuters.
Twitter said the application 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 would later extend the COVID-19 policy to other types of disputed or misleading information.
Twitter so far has used its policies sparingly against major political figures, but did delete tweets by the presidents of Brazil and Venezuela which violated its coronavirus rules.
The company’s alert on Trump‘s mail-in ballot tweets came hours after it declined to take action on separate tweets Trump had sent about the 2001 death of a former congressional staff member for Joe Scarborough, after her widower asked the company to remove them for furthering false claims.
A Twitter spokesman told Reuters Trump‘s mail-in ballot tweets were related to election integrity and therefore subject to different treatment under its policies.
Asked about the Scarborough tweets, a Twitter spokeswoman said the company was expanding its products and policies to address such tweets more effectively in the future, without elaborating.