Twitter says it will focus on ‘context’ not ‘fact-checking’ after Trump confronts social media

Social media behemoth Twitter announced that it is getting out of the ‘fact-checking’ business and will instead focus more on the “context” of messages after a dust-up with President Donald Trump led him to threaten platforms with new regulations.

In as series of messages Tuesday evening, platform officials and co-founder Jack Dorsey said they have reviewed “Twitter Safety” policies regarding posts that could be in violation of their posting rules, saying the site will now focus on “context, not fact-checking” content.

The messages come about a week after Twitter attempted to fact-check a post President Trump made about mail-in vote fraud and then labeled another tweet as having “glorified violence.”

In the posted thread on Tuesday, Dorsey also included a list of the company’s principles which include decreasing “potential for likely harm” and “harmful bias & incentives.”

“We are NOT attempting to address all misinformation,” Twitter noted in one of the messages, posted. “Instead, we prioritize based on the highest potential for harm, focusing on manipulated media, civic integrity, and COVID-19. Likelihood, severity and type of potential harm – along with reach and scale – factor into this.”

The president angrily denounced the platform when its staff attempted to claim that statement regarding mail-in voting as being “substantially fraudulent” was factually incorrect. The platform cited CNN and the Washington Post as having ‘debunked’ the president, though both of those media outlets regularly published stories saying the 2016 Trump campaign “colluded” with Russia, which is false.

“There is NO WAY (ZERO!) that Mail-In Ballots will be anything less than substantially fraudulent. Mail boxes will be robbed, ballots will be forged & even illegally printed out & fraudulently signed. The Governor of California is sending Ballots to millions of people, anyone,” Trump tweeted.

He further noted that anyone “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!”

Twitter posted a link to those tweets which takes users to a page stating the president’s claims were “unsubstantiated.” As of Wednesday, that page was still online, despite Twitter’s announced change of policy.

“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,” the site noted.

Days later, the platform censored a tweet by the president in which he angrily denounced rioting and looting that had begun in the wake of the killing of Minneapolis resident George Floyd.

Twitter claimed that Trump was violating the platform’s rule against “glorifying violence.”

“I can’t stand back & watch this happen to a great American City, Minneapolis,” the president wrote in one of two tweets. “A total lack of leadership. Either the very weak Radical Left Mayor, Jacob Frey, get his act together and bring the City under control, or I will send in the National Guard & get the job done right.”

“These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen. Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!”

Following both incidents, Trump signed an executive order that could limit their liability protections while shutting them off federal funding. The order calls for a review of the legal immunities which protect Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other platforms from content posted to their sites.


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Jon Dougherty


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