Trump and the Right vs. Twitter and the left
For the last couple of years, conservatives have been complaining about social media platforms and their lack of distribution of conservative content. Media figures and commentators on the right seem to have a much more likely chance of getting ban and thrown off the platforms as their counterparts on the left. And even if conservatives aren’t totally banned, they’re treated very differently in the way they’re allowed to post. This is a controversy that has been heating up for about a decade.
The social media battle came to a boil recently when Twitter decided to “fact check” a tweet from President Trump.
….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
Perhaps in a future article, we’ll discuss the utter ridiculousness of this particular “fact checked” issue but for now, we’ll stay on the overall topic of twitter’s decision to intervene.
There are plenty of differences between Fox News and Twitter but the biggest and most important is how they are organized. Fox News is a publisher and therefore bears some responsibility for what they decide to put on their platform. Twitter is considered a message board where any user can essentially say anything, so long and it’s not a specific and credible physical threat.
Twitter and other social media platforms are protected from liability by law but what happens when they decide they will start altering user’s posts? This is the question that President Trump is trying to answer.
A couple thoughts on “fact checking”
‘Fact Check’ is a term that is thrown around the political world like a beach ball and a ball game. Every competing interest seems to have its own ‘fact check’ on almost every major topic. The problem with fact-checking in politics is that 99.99% of political claims have any different variation of truth and data is much more difficult to nail down than one might think. More often than not, the particular fact-checker finds ‘facts’ that support their side or argument. It’s not a perfect science and in the world of political theatre, it never will be.
The other problem with a platform like twitter appending various tweets with fact-checks is the inability to fact-check everything. If users are accustomed to seeing fact-checked material from the platform, there is a reasonable assumption that any post without the fact-check appendage is clearly true. How long would it be before twitter gets sued for a user taking an offline action advised by a tweet that skated passed the twitter fact-checkers? Up until this point, twitter has not yet decided that the tweet below needs to be fact-checked. Therefore, I have no reason to believe it is false and I’ll go ahead and assume that it’s true.
soup was invented in 1927 by John Soup when he wanted to drink a chicken— Fred Delicious (@Fred_Delicious) May 27, 2020
Obviously this is a silly example but all kinds of information is disseminated through twitter; medical, news, financial, etc. If Twitter decides to fact-check at any capacity, it will need to fact-check everything for the safety of its users.
Back to Trump
Last night, twitter straight up took down a tweet from the President. I’m sure that will go over well.
I’ll go ahead and remind you, this is the leader of the free world, not some rando who said something mean. And a globally used platform has decided you shouldn’t get to see what he said. The actual full and uncensored tweet is below.
….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!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 29, 2020
At the moment, President Trump is expected to sign an executive order which seeks to limit the protections of a 1997 law passed by Congress that states online companies are not liable for user’s posts. The Trump team will argue that these protections do not apply when the protected user’s posts are altered by the platform.
If you think this is the end of it, think again. This one is going to go to battle in the courts and it’ll be interesting to see how things play out. For all the reasons above, this seems like a losing battle for Twitter and by association, all the other social media platforms.