Twitter refutes inaccuracies in Trump tweets
Twitter added information to refute the inaccuracies in President Trump’s tweets for the first time on Tuesday, after years of pressure over its inaction on his false and threatening posts.
The social media company added links late on Tuesday to two of Trump’s tweets in which he had posted about mail-in ballots and falsely claimed that they would cause the November presidential election to be “rigged”.
The links — which were in blue lettering at the bottom of the posts and punctuated by an exclamation mark — urged people to “get the facts” about voting by mail. Clicking on the links led to a CNN story that said Trump’s claims were unsubstantiated and to a list of bullet points that Twitter had compiled rebutting the inaccuracies.
The warning labels were a minor addition to Trump’s tweets, but they represented a big shift in how Twitter deals with the President.
For years, the San Francisco company has faced criticism over Trump’s posts on his most favoured social media platform, which he has used to bully, cajole and spread falsehoods. But Twitter has repeatedly said that the President’s messages did not violate its terms of service and that while Trump may have skirted the line of what was accepted under its rules, he never crossed it.
That changed on Tuesday after a fierce backlash over tweets that Trump had posted about Lori Klausutis, a young woman who died in 2001 from complications of an undiagnosed heart condition while working for Joe Scarborough, a Florida congressman at the time.
As part of his long-running feud with Scarborough, a host for MSNBC, Trump had posted false conspiracy theories about Klausutis’s death in recent days suggesting that Scarborough was involved.
Early on Tuesday, a letter from the widower of Klausutis addressed to Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s chief executive, became public. In it, Timothy Klausutis asked Twitter to delete Trump’s tweets about his late wife, calling them “horrifying lies”.
Scarborough also called the tweets “unspeakably cruel”. Others, including Katie Couric and the CNN anchor Jake Tapper, expressed sympathy for the Klausutis family, with Tapper calling Trump’s tweets “malicious lies”.
Twitter said it was “deeply sorry about the pain these statements” were causing the Klausutis family, but said that it would not remove Trump’s tweets because they did not violate its policies.
Instead, the company added warning labels to other messages posted by the President on Tuesday, where he claimed the mail-in ballots themselves would be illegally printed. Twitter determined that those unsubstantiated assertions could lead to voter confusion and that they merited a correction, said a person with knowledge of the deliberations who was not authorised to speak publicly.
The changes immediately set off accusations by Trump, who has more than 80 million followers on Twitter, and his 2020 re-election campaign that the company was biased against him.
In a tweet, Trump said the company was “interfering in the 2020 Presidential Election” and added, in another post, that it was “completely stifling FREE SPEECH”.
Brad Parscale, a manager of the Trump 2020 campaign, said, “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.”
A Twitter spokesman said Trump’s tweets about mail-in ballots “contain potentially misleading information about voting processes and have been labelled to provide additional context.”
Disinformation experts said Twitter’s move indicated how social media platforms that had once declared themselves neutral were increasingly having to abandon that stance.
“This is the first time that Twitter has done something that has in some small way attempted to rein in the president,” said Tiffany C. Li, a visiting professor at Boston University School of Law. “There’s been a gradual shift in the way that Twitter has treated content moderation. You see them taking on more of their duty and responsibility to create a healthy online speech environment.”
New York Times News Service