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To tell the truth and nothing but

Trump tangles with Twitter and social media about fact-checking.

By Gene Wickham, Staff Writer

After years of using Twitter as his personal mouthpiece, President Donald Trump had his first encounter with the platform's new fact-check feature, which adds a link to facts of any statements which are confusing, misleading or in dispute.

On the heels of heavy criticism in the past few years, social media has stepped up the policing of its platforms. After initial warnings, many people have been put in Twitter jail — having their accounts temporarily suspended for posting tweets to their accounts violating Twitter’s terms of use. One of the biggest users of Twitter, with 80 million followers, is Trump. Since taking office, he has commandeered the platform without any fear of accountability. Actions which would normally get someone kicked off Twitter has had no effect on the president's account.

On May 27, Trump responded to California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s statement about sending out mail-in voter ballots. Trump went on a Twitter tirade by attacking the governor and proclaiming mail-in ballots were fraudulent.

“There is NO WAY (ZERO!) that Mail-In ballots will be anything less than substantially fraudulent,” Trump proclaimed in his tweet response.

Believing Trump was providing misleading information, Twitter provided a link to information about mail-in ballots, allowing readers to decide for themselves.

Seeing this as a hindrance to his ability to spread his message, Trump threatened to shut down the platform for stifling his “free speech” and threatened to close down or heavily regulate all social media.

The next day, Trump signed an executive order calling on the FCC and FTC to investigate Twitter and other social media platforms in order to curtail their protections while urging regulation of all social media.

According to the American Bar Association, an executive order is a signed, written and published directive from the President of the United States that manages operations of the federal government. Twitter is a private company and any threat from Trump would be fraught with constitutional problems.

Twitter began the fact-check process in response to confusing information about the pandemic. A recent ABC News story with Twitter's Yoel Roth, head of site integrity, and Nick Pickles, director of Global Public Policy Strategy and Development, detailed the fast-check process.

“The fact-checking labels were rolled out earlier this month as a way to combat misinformation related to COVID-19,” Roth and Pickles wrote. “Initially, the labels were mostly used to link back to medical authorities' information about the virus when people posted false claims or misleading information.” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg weighed-in by criticising Twitter’s move. “I just believe strongly that Facebook shouldn’t be the arbiter of the truth of everything people say online,” he said. Employees came out criticizing Zuckerberg’s lack of response. Several openly responded through a Los Angeles Times story following their CEO’s comment. Andrew Crow, head of design for Facebook’s Portal video conferencing device, posted on Twitter, “Censoring information that might help people see the complete picture is wrong. But giving a platform to incite violence and spread disinformation is unacceptable.”

Although still hesitant to completely remove the president’s account, Twitter has started to doubledown on holding Trump's tweets accountable. They claimed Trump's tweet to “dominate” the streets and his threat “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” was viewed as a threat to the lives of protesters.

Most recently, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey himself took down a Trump campaign video containing a copyrighted segment which the original creator had claimed as infringement.

An angry Trump claimed the Twitter action was illegal. Dorsey shot back almost immediately: “Not true. And not illegal,” he said. “This was pulled because we got a DMCA [Digital Millennium Copyright Act] complaint from [the] copyright holder.”

The video was also removed from Facebook and Instagram.


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