Twitter adds fact-checking labels to hundreds of tweets despite Trump attacks

Twitter this week continued to add fact-check labels to hundreds of posts on its platform, a move that came as the Trump administration prepared to issue an executive order targeting the broad immunity that social media companies have over the content posted by their users.

The plans from the Trump administration followed Twitter’s decision on Tuesday to add fact-check labels to the president’s tweets for the first time. In response, Trump has accused the social media company of silencing conservative viewpoints and has vowed to respond. 

Twitter’s policies call for adding labels to potentially misleading information on subjects including elections and the coronavirus outbreak. The company this week added its fact-check label to posts from Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, claiming that COVID-19 originated in the U.S. because the posts contained “potentially misleading content” about the coronavirus, a Twitter official told The Hill. 

Multiple tweets from Zhao now include “Get the facts about COVID-19” labels directing users to news reports noting that evidence suggests the novel coronavirus originated in animals and not a lab.

Twitter also added labels to posts falsely claiming that a Minneapolis police officer involved in the arrest of George Floyd was the same man pictured in a red “Make Whites Great Again” hat. The posts, some of which went viral earlier this week, now include “manipulated media” labels appended to them.

Hundreds of tweets like the one Ice Cube shared were flagged based on Twitter’s “synthetic and manipulated media policy,” a spokesperson said, noting that the company began taking action on them on Wednesday. 

Twitter’s move earlier this week to apply fact-check labels to two of Trump’s tweets about mail-in voting prompted immediate calls from Republican lawmakers for a reevaluation of the federal liability protections they enjoy. Twitter said the decision was made because Trump’s tweets contained “potentially misleading information about voting processes and have been labeled to provide additional context around mail-in ballots.”

But Trump and Republicans claimed that the decision illustrated alleged bias on the part of the company. 

A draft of the executive order Trump signed targets protections granted to social media platforms under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The section shields social media platforms from facing lawsuits over the comments, videos and other posts users share. It is generally regarded as a law foundational to the internet’s expansion and how platforms moderate their sites. 

The new order suggests that companies like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube could be considered publishers in some cases, making them liable for content posted on their sites. Among other things, it would direct an agency within the Commerce Department to file a petition with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to clarify the scope of the law. 

Democratic lawmakers have said that Trump doesn’t have the ability to alter the law and critics have also argued that the order misinterprets Section 230.

“Protecting expression that resists the tyranny of those in power is the very foundation of the First Amendment,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) one of the authors of Section 230, said in a statement. “Section 230 does not prevent Internet companies from moderating offensive or false content. And it does not change the First Amendment of the Constitution.”

“Ironically, Donald Trump is a big beneficiary of Section 230. If platforms were not immune under the law, then they would not risk the legal liability that could come with hosting Donald Trump’s lies, defamation, and threats,” Kate Ruane, Senior Legislative Counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey on Wednesday defended the company’s decision to fact-check Trump after Facebook head Mark Zuckerberg voiced concerns about platforms acting as an “arbiter of truth.” 

“This does not make us an ‘arbiter of truth,'” Dorsey said. “Our intention is to connect the dots of conflicting statements and show the information in dispute so people can judge for themselves. More transparency from us is critical so folks can clearly see the why behind our actions.”

UPDATED 4:24 p.m.

Tags Donald Trump Facebook Fact-checking Jack Dorsey Mark Zuckerberg Ron Wyden Social media Twitter
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