Twitter shocked everyone on Tuesday when it fact-checked President Donald Trump’s tweets. The company added “get the facts” links to two of Donald Trump’s tweets that claimed mail-in ballots would lead to widespread election fraud.
The link Twitter added lead to a page that outlines how there’s no evidence for such claims along with sources from news outlets like CNN and the Washington Post. You may think it’s a welcome development at first but the way Twitter approached it appears to be toothless and that it may even backfire.
It was revealed that the label only appeared around nine hours after the first tweets. At that point, they had already been retweeted over 20,000 times, and the message had spread far and wide. A fact-checking label that appears several hours after the fact has a far more diminished impact.
Moreover, there’s nothing about the fact-checking label that shows that the tweet was wrong or misleading. Rather, it simply said “Get the facts about mail-in ballots,” which could actually make you feel it’s a link to more information on what Trump was tweeting.
It could also make one feel it’s a link to the fact that supports what the president is twisting rather than disputing them. We would have preferred it if the tweet was obscured entirely, similar to Twitter’s own example of labelling such misleading content.
There was also no 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, which will include his 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.
Part of the reason everyone is shocked about this fact-checking flag is that for a very long time, Twitter hasn’t taken any action when the President drops Tweets that misleads people and amount to misinformation, which has occurred numerous times.
Remember when Trump tweeted that the Obama administration wiretapped Trump Tower which was a false claim, Twitter didn’t take any action, and when Trump tweeted that he “never said Russia did not meddle in the election” when he has actually said so repeatedly, Twitter was also calm.