President Trump called for Twitter and other social media companies to be shut down on Wednesday, the latest development in a long-running scuffle between conservatives and big tech over accused censorship, that also comes as the platforms face increased attacks from the left for not doing enough to stymie misinformation online.
Trump’s threat came hours after the president was fact-checked by Twitter on one of his tweets on mail-in voting for the first time, prompting the president to accuse the platform of “interfering” with the 2020 election and stifling “free speech.”
Republicans have long accused the platform — and other social media companies — of censorship: last year, Senate Republicans lambasted Facebook, Google and Twitter executives during a congressional hearing over allegations they deliberately silence conservative users and engineer algorithms to suppress right-leaning content online, with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) alleging “consistent pattern of political bias and censorship on the part of big tech.”
Experts say there’s no evidence Silicon Valley is working behind the scenes to deliberately limit the reach of conservatives; in fact, an Axios analysis conducted last year found that stories about the 2020 presidential election that elicited the most reach online often came from right-wing media outlets.
Democrats, meanwhile, have accused Twitter and Facebook of taking too hands-off of an approach to misinformation online, and have become increasingly critical as the 2020 election heats up and misinformation explodes during the coronavirus outbreak.
The issue has come to a head over Trump, whose Twitter account Democrats have called for to be restricted or revoked.
Last year, Twitter responded to a request from Senator Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) to suspend Trump’s account for violating the platform’s guidelines by saying world leaders don’t always have to follow its rules.On Tuesday, Democrats — and some Republicans — rallied around the widower of Lori Klausutis, who called on the platform to take down the president’s tweets baselessly accusing MSNBC host Joe Scarborough of having murdered her.
Twitter has taken some steps to control the spread of misinformation online. Last year, Twitter announced it would ban all political ads from its platform. But the platform has struggled to come to terms with whether it should police misleading tweets from world leaders. In recent months, Twitter has ramped up its fact-checking operation in response to the coronavirus pandemic—but only after repeated calls to do so—flagging tweets that contain claims of a conspiracy behind the virus—like blaming billionaire Bill Gates and 5G technology. This month, it said it would mark tweets containing misinformation, including about elections, with labels that linked to reliable information.
What we don’t know
How Twitter will choose to label Trump’s tweets going forward. While the company made the decision to label tweets containing misleading information, it has failed to put a note on several Trump tweets. Last week, Trump falsely asserted that Michigan’s secretary of state had “illegally” sent out absentee ballot applications for the November election during the pandemic. Twitter did not slap any message on the tweet.
“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,” said Brad Parscale, Trump’s 2020 campaign manager, in a statement in response to Twitter’s fact check. “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.”
After fact checking Trump, Republicans targeted Twitter Head of Site Integrity Yoel Roth for anti-Trump tweets he made online. Still, a Twitter spokesperson told Business Insider that while Roth is part of the team that recommends whether to label tweets that contain misinformation, the ultimate decision about whether to label tweets is ultimately made by “leadership.”
Twitter Grapples Anew With Its Trump Conundrum (New York Times)
Source: Forbes Business