Updated Twitter has for the first time acted on inaccurate tweets made by US president Donald Trump.
Trump on Tuesday took to the avian network with the following pair of tweets.
....living in the state, no matter who they are or how they got there, will get one. That will be followed up with professionals telling all of these people, many of whom have never even thought of voting before, how, and for whom, to vote. This will be a Rigged Election. No way!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 26, 2020
Evidence of the fraud Trump alleged is hard to find. The Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity that Trump commissioned was disbanded without issuing a final report on voter fraud. Several US states refused to co-operate with the commission on grounds that the Trump administration had no business probing their electoral rolls and they had in any event done their own investigations and found trivial instances of dodgy voting. The job of investigating voter fraud was handed to the Department of Homeland Security, which is yet to issue a report. Trump-era partisan bickering has persisted ever since, with competing world views proving all but irreconcilable.
One fact is certain: California recently conducted a special election for a congressional seat and it was won by a member of Trump's Republican Party with almost 60 per cent of votes submitted by mail. That result overturned the outcome of the 2018 House elections in the district, suggesting that vote-by-mail may not hurt Trump's prospects!
Against that background, Twitter added the text "Get the facts about mail-in ballots" to the above tweets and linked it to a page titled "Trump makes unsubstantiated claim that mail-in ballots will lead to voter fraud" and offering a panel headed "What you need to know" that offers the following information:
- Trump falsely claimed that mail-in ballots would lead to "a Rigged Election". However, fact-checkers say there is no evidence that mail-in ballots are linked to voter fraud.
- Trump falsely claimed that California will send mail-in ballots to "anyone living in the state, no matter who they are or how they got there." In fact, only registered voters will receive ballots.
- Five states already vote entirely by mail and all states offer some form of mail-in absentee voting, according to NBC News.
Trump, of course, had a riposte:
....Twitter is completely stifling FREE SPEECH, and I, as President, will not allow it to happen!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 26, 2020
Trump regularly asserts that CNN and the Post deliberately publish false stories about him and his administration but has almost always been unable to produce evidence of any untruths.
Twitter has previously left false Trump tweets alone on grounds that they are newsworthy, even if they also all-but-infringe its rules. Just why the company chose to intervene at this moment is unclear.
However the social network is also facing criticism over recent Trump tweets alleging Lori Klausutis was murdered in 2001 by MSNBC host – and ex-congressman – Joe Scarborough, even though her death was found to be an accident caused by a fall due to an undiagnosed heart condition, and incidentally happened in a district office in Florida, while Scarborough himself was in Washington, 820 miles (1,300km) away.
Tim Klausutis, Lori's former husband, wrote to Twitter explaining how his ever-present grief has been exacerbated by the president, and imploring the social network's founder Jack Dorsey to therefore delete Trump's tweets on grounds they are false.
Twitter has, at the time of writing, declined to do so. Nor has the San Francisco upstart updated its rules or the document that explains how it enforces that code. ®
Updated to add
The President has, in retaliation, threatened to close down Twitter and other social networks, even though he can't. "Republicans feel that Social Media Platforms totally silence conservatives voices," he tweeted. "We will strongly regulate, or close them down, before we can ever allow this to happen."