How Twitter Policed Trump During the Election


Twitter flagged half of President Trump’s 14 posts on Thursday for including disputed or misleading information, as the company takes a far more aggressive approach to battling misinformation on its platform.

In the hours and days after the election, the president repeatedly lashed out about vote counting and lobbed unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud. Through Friday afternoon, Twitter labeled 15 of the 44 tweets and retweets Mr. Trump posted since the first polls closed on Election Day, according to a New York Times analysis.

Before the election, the company had flagged only a handful of his tweets for violating policies against the glorification of violence and misinformation about the civic process.

In the early hours of Friday, Mr. Trump fired back, referring to a law that provides a legal safe harbor to Twitter and other social media companies.

For months, Twitter has been locked in a fight with the president over what he can and cannot tweet. In May, the company began adding fact-checks and labels to his posts as a way to demonstrate that Mr. Trump had broken its policies. (Twitter does not require world leaders to delete tweets that break its rules, as it does regular users.) Mr. Trump responded by signing an executive order intended to chip away at the protections of Section 230, which is part of the 1996 Communications Decency Act.

Twitter has broken ranks with other social media companies in its persistent effort to moderate the president. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, has said he has no desire to fact-check Mr. Trump. Facebook said it would caution users about premature claims of victory with a notification that the election had yet to be called, and took action on some of Mr. Trump’s posts in which he claimed the election was being stolen.

The battle between Twitter and Mr. Trump has become a round-the-clock event since the election, as the president has increasingly, without evidence, questioned the voting process and the results.

Twitter’s labeling of Mr. Trump’s tweets meant that people needed to click through their warnings to see the posts, making each one harder to share. In the past, those actions by Twitter have helped slow the overall spread of false or potentially misleading tweets, according to an analysis by the Election Integrity Partnership, a coalition of misinformation researchers.

The Trump campaign said Twitter was working to “silence the president.” A Twitter spokesman said the company planned to continue to take action against tweets that prematurely declared victory or contained misleading information.

Members of Mr. Trump’s family and staff have also tested Twitter’s boundaries, forcing the company to keep pace as they claimed that he had won the vote in Pennsylvania, a race that had yet to be called by Friday afternoon. And as key states appeared to tip in favor of Joseph R. Biden Jr., Twitter also added labels to tweets from Democrats who pre-emptively claimed Mr. Biden had won the presidency.

With votes still being counted, Twitter’s challenge isn’t over. And even when a winner is declared, Twitter may continue its effort to moderate Mr. Trump. He has indicated that he plans to contest the election results if he is not declared the winner, and is likely to take to Twitter to air his grievances.



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