WASHINGTON — Twitter for the first time added fact-check labels to a pair of tweets by U.S. President Donald Trump that boosted unsubstantiated claims about voting fraud on Tuesday, a move that comes as the social media network faces intense scrutiny of its handling of the president’s feed.
Twitter’s label does not directly declare the tweets false, but points anyone reading them to news reports that contradict the president’s assertions.
The action comes as the tech company faces rising pressure to crack down on the president’s Twitter account, which in recent days has posted a flurry of baseless tweets riling fears about widespread voter fraud and a series of posts stoking conspiracy theories about the death of a former staffer to MSNBC host Joe Scarborough when he served in Congress. Twitter said earlier Tuesday that it would not take down the tweets about the deceased staffer.
The two missives — in which Trump claimed earlier Tuesday without evidence that mail-in ballots in California are likely to be “substantially fraudulent” — now display a notice directing Twitter users to “Get the facts about mail-in ballots.” The label links to a Twitter events page that notes that Trump’s claims “are unsubstantiated,” citing news outlets including CNN and the Washington Post, and adds, “Experts say mail-in ballots are very rarely linked to voter fraud.”
Twitter spokesperson Katie Rosborough said in an email to POLITICO that the posts “contain potentially misleading information about voting processes and have been labeled to provide additional context around mail-in ballots.” Rosborough confirmed it is the first time the company has added such a message to any Trump tweets.
The Trump campaign put out a statement calling the move evidence of “political bias.”
“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 Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale in the statement. “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. There are many reasons the Trump campaign pulled all our advertising from Twitter months ago, and their clear political bias is one of them.“
In the case of the former Scarborough staffer, the widower of the woman called on Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey in a letter last week to take down the president’s tweets which suggested falsely the MSNBC host was involved in her death. Twitter said in a statement that the company is “deeply sorry about the pain these statements, and the attention they are drawing, are causing the family.” But the company said it will not be removing the posts at this time.
Twitter has repeatedly taken heat for what critics see as a failure to enforce its policies against misinformation, targeted harassment and more against the commander-in-chief, who routinely assails the tech company over allegations it is biased against conservatives.
The company announced this month it is expanding its policy for labeling tweets to include posts related to Covid-19 that include “statements or assertions that have been confirmed to be false or misleading by subject-matter experts.” The company said last year it would begin labeling tweets by global leaders that may run afoul of its policies.