Twitter Adds Fact-Check Notification to Tweets from President Trump Regarding Mail-In Ballots

This will no doubt inflame the ongoing debate over the role of social media platforms in the modern political process.

Earlier today, Twitter added fact-check notifications to two tweets from US President Donald Trump, in which Trump made several statements about the mail-in ballot process.

Those fact-check markers take users to a Twitter Moment which includes more information about mail-in ballots, helping to ensure readers are aware of the facts of the matter.

And as you might expect, President Trump was none too happy about being second-guessed by Twitter’s team:

Trump tweets

President Trump was already considering the establishment of a new commission to investigate social media platforms over alleged bias against conservative views. You can bet that he’ll now be looking to push ahead with that – and while Twitter is simply enforcing its rules around questionable claims in tweets, it hasn’t enacted such on Trump’s tweets before. Not when Trump criticized people giving evidence in his impeachment trial, threatened nuclear war against North Korea, or advocated hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19. Thus far, Twitter has avoided taking that next step of provoking Trump and his supporters by clearly labeling such claims as false, or enforcing suspensions for rule violations.

Now, Twitter has waded in. And it looks set to see a lot of blowback as a result.

But this, really, the right move. In this instance, Twitter has left Trump’s tweets up, enabling surrounding discussion to continue, which aligns with the platform’s long-standing approach that tweets from public figures should be exempt from regular rules around removals and suspensions. 

It’s also utilized its new, more prominent labeling on tweets to connect users through to more information, if they choose to do so. There’s no definitive statement that the information being shared is wrong, it’s merely adding more context for those who might want it – which, in this case, also aligns with the platform’s ongoing approach to protecting the integrity of the election process.

Of course, Trump and his millions of supporters won’t see it as such, and it may well embolden greater division between politically-aligned groups. But Twitter has taken a significant step – it’s set a line that even the President can’t freely cross, which is something that many have been calling on the company to do, repeatedly, over the last four years. 

So what happens from here? No doubt we’re going to hear more about conservative bias, and the aforementioned new commission to investigate social platforms. No doubt some Trump supporters will also use this as impetus to switch to another social network, where their views are welcome. Will that have a significant impact on Twitter? Probably not, and most likely, any investigation will lead to minimal enforcement or action against Twitter and other platforms over perceived bias.

But it is a major step for Twitter. Now, it’s taken that action, it’s shown that it will indeed add alert labels to Trump’s tweets if it sees fit. If Twitter maintains that approach with all world leaders, especially heading into the 2020 election push, that could have a significant impact – not only in terms of providing more information to voters, but also with respect to how each group gets their information and updates, and what that means for political understanding moving forward.

This is a much bigger deal than Twitter adding its ‘Manipulated Media. warning to an edited video of Joe Biden posted by Trump staffers back in March. This is a stand from Twitter, that could shape its approach moving forward.

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