In a first, Twitter has added a misinformation label to a series of tweets by US President Donald Trump, the Washington Post reported. In a statement, a Twitter spokesperson said, “These Tweets (here and here) contain potentially misleading information about voting processes and have been labeled to provide additional context around mail-in ballots. This decision is in line with the approach we shared earlier this month.”
Trump’s reelection campaign said in a statement that “Partnering with the biased fake news media ‘fact checkers’ is only a smoke screen Twitter is using to try to lend their obvious political tactics some false credibility.” Trump himself lashed out in similar terms in subsequent tweets, saying Twitter was “interfering” in the 2020 presidential election. Twitter in March had added a tag to a deepfake video of Presidential candidate Joe Biden, which Trump had retweeted.
While the label doesn’t show up on embeds, it is visible on Twitter’s apps and website. The one on Trump’s tweets links to this curation of news articles that counter the narrative that voting by mail results in widespread fraud, by relying on CNN, Washington Post and others.
Per Twitter’s policy, these labels — which were rolled out more widely after the COVID-19 pandemic started — are usually applied to false statements that are not “serious” enough to remove. In any case, since Twitter’s policy protects public office holders like Trump from having their accounts or tweets removed in most cases, this seems like the only option the company might have to curb misinformation from powerful people. We have reached out to Twitter to see if the company plans on rolling out this approach in India as well, where the company has done far less on much more serious issues like targeted harassment.
Twitter has been testing features that would let users limit who can reply to them. The company has also been testing tweet scheduling, a feature previously only available on TweetDeck. Earlier this month, the BJP’s Vinit Goenka filed a suit in the Supreme Court seeking directions for the government to create a mechanism to check content and advertisements on Twitter, which are allegedly spreading “hatred amongst the communities, [are] seditious, instigative, separatist, hate filled, divisive, against the society at large and against the spirit of the Union of India”.