Twitter fact-checks Trump on voting

Trump’s tweets about mail-in voting were decided by the platform to be misleading

Twitter began labeling misinformative and disinformative tweets by world leaders as the COVID-19 pandemic became more prevalent in March, but did not address any tweets by President Trump until his controversial tweet

After adding a new feature earlier this month to label disinformation and misinformation, Twitter added warning labels to two of President Donald Trump’s tweets for the first time on May 26. 

In the labeled tweets, the president referred to mail-in voting processes as “substantially fraudulent.” He stated falsely that mail-in voting would cause the 2020 election to be “rigged.” 

Twitter then added a blue box at the bottom of his tweet, asking viewers to “get the facts” about mail-in voting. 

This comes after the social media platform faced backlash for allowing the president to tweet false information about the cause of death of Lori Klausutis. 

Klausutis was a staffer for then-Florida Congressman Joe Scarborough when she died of an undiagnosed heart condition. Trump posted a false theory that Scarborough was involved in her death. 

A letter was leaked on May 26 from Timothy Klausutis, Lori’s husband, asking Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey, to remove Trump’s tweet.

Calling them horrifying and malicious lies, journalists including Katie Couric and CNN anchor Jake Tapper also came to the aid of the Klausutis family. 

In response to their letter, Twitter apologized, saying it was “deeply sorry about the pain these statements” were causing, but that it would not remove Trump’s tweets because they did not violate its policies. 

“This is the first time that Twitter has done something that has in some small way attempted to rein in the president,” Tiffany Li, a visiting professor at the Boston University School of Law, said. Now, the fact-checking label placed on Trump’s tweets about mail-in ballots have sparked controversy.

The social media company recieved backlash from the president, who claimed that Twitter was biased against him, interfering in the 2020 Presidential Election and stifling free speech. 

Similarly, the manager of the Trump 2020 campaign Brad Pascale 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.” 

According to Twitter’s Yoel Roth, head of site integrity, and Nick Pickles, director of Global Public Policy Strategy and Development, Twitter initially created the feature with three categories of labels: misleading information, disputed claims and unverified claims.  

Rolled out on May 11, these policies were publicized as beneficial for the general public.  They have been used to hide tweets from several world leaders including the Brazilian and Venezuelan presidents, who rpovided misinformation about COVID-19. 

Trump has used Twitter as a means of communication throughout his presidency, but had not been labeled as fact-checked by the platform before Tuesday. 

Since the start of his presidency, Trump’s use of Twitter has skyrocketed, accelerating from an average of nine tweets per day to 29 tweets per day. According to the New York Times, Trump tweeted 108 times on May 10, the most he has during the span of his presidency. 

None of the president’s tweets had been marked until last week, an action which some contend is Twitter’s effort to keep the president in check. 

“Moving forward, we may use these labels and warning messages to provide additional explanations or clarifications in situations where the risks of harm associated with a Tweet are less severe but where people may still be confused or misled by the content,” Roth and Pickles said. “This will make it easier to find facts and make informed decisions about what people see on Twitter.”

Tuesday marked the first time that these face-checking labels were used on the president’s tweets.