Enlarge /. Twitter's policies are currently protecting over-the-top posted posts that violate rules due to a "world leader" clause. On Tuesday, the social media service tried another way.
Twitter's latest fact-checking initiative, which warns of misleading posts by major officials, appeared on Tuesday's largest account in North America: President Donald Trump.
Earlier that day, Trump used Twitter to claim that mail-in polls are inherently "fraudulent." Hours later, his posts were updated by Twitter and, in addition to an exclamation mark, contained a clickable plain text message – "Information on mail-in ballots".
Clicking this notice will redirect users to a page quoting "CNN, Washington Post, and other fact checkers" to dispute the President's allegation Tuesday morning. Before the Twitter page refers to these quotes, however, it is opened in an apparently completely original language, in contrast to a quote from a press office:
Trump incorrectly claimed that postal ballot papers would result in "a rigged election". However, factual examiners say there is no evidence that postal ballot papers are linked to election fraud. Trump incorrectly claimed that California would send postal ballots to "anyone who lives in the state, whoever they are or how they got there." In fact, only registered voters receive ballots. Although Trump targeted California, postal ballot papers are already used in some states, including Oregon, Utah and Nebraska.
A Twitter representative confirmed in an email to Ars Technica that this fact-checking page is "created and managed by our global curation team" and is not made up of the language of other authors or outlets. Twitter referred us to this team's curation style guide.
At press time, Trump's posts on Tuesday morning about mail-in election fraud contain plain text, clickable messages that advise users to "learn the facts."
Clicking on it will bring up a lengthy, scrolling feed that revolves around Twitter's fact-checking. Anything not expressly credited to an outside agency or point of sale will be written by Twitter's global curation team.
"What you need to know." These bullets are also written by Twitter
global curation team.
After that, the scroll adds formal quotes from newspapers and other outlets.
The rest of Twitter's fact check page is similar to reporting viral news trends, where various posts are presented in semi-chronological order to tell a story about an evolving story. The title of the page is as firm as the paragraph quoted above: "Trump claims without reason that postal ballot papers will lead to electoral fraud."
"Such a terrible thing"
In terms of timing, Twitter applied a fact check label on the same day that critics proclaimed another bizarre post from the president: an indirect charge of murder. About an hour after the mail-in vote was decrypted, Trump used his Twitter account to mention "opening a cold case" regarding MSNBC presenter Joe Scarborough, and then asked "if Joe would have done such a terrible thing can or not ". This vague post is not Trump's first time pointing to the death of a Scarborough employee in 2001 – and he has danced around the direct language again to avoid a particular accusation.
This is probably why Twitter refused to take action against the Scarborough post, including using warnings. As company officials told NBC News on Tuesday:
We deeply regret the pain these statements and the attention they draw to the family. We have worked to expand existing product features and guidelines so that we can address these issues more effectively in the future, and we hope that these changes will be implemented shortly.
In the meantime, the fact-checking clue on Trump's tweet seems to be the social network's recent attempt to maintain its controversial policy of leaving posts by "world leaders" unaffected, even if they appear to be clearly violating Twitter's rules . It remains to be seen whether appending a note to verify facts to a controversial tweet works in favor of Twitter, especially since Trump had not yet publicly responded to Twitter's decision at the time of printing.
In 2020, Twitter experimented with plain text warning signs for other reasons. As a previous important example, a White House post that included a doctoral video of US presidential candidate Joe Biden received a Twitter-generated warning that the post was described as "manipulated media."
Update, 9:11 p.m. ET: Trump shot back on Twitter and claims that using a fact check through the social network is like influencing the election. The president hasn't clarified exactly which federal law on electoral fraud or interference Twitter has violated. While Twitter did not change or delete the language in Trump's posts in any way, the President claimed that the social network was still "completely suppressing the FREE SPEECH and I, as President, will not allow it!"