On Tuesday Twitter made a move which has sent ripples through the internet.
That move was labeling a tweet by US President Donald Trump as potentially misleading. The tweet in question was about mail-in ballots and how, according to Trump, they will be used for fraudulent votes.
Twitter added a label urging anybody who saw the tweet to “get the facts about mail-in ballots” and the president flipped his lid.
“Republicans feel that Social Media Platforms totally silence conservatives voices. We will strongly regulate, or close them down, before we can ever allow this to happen. We saw what they attempted to do, and failed, in 2016. We can’t let a more sophisticated version of that,” Trump tweeted before – once again – claiming that mail-in ballots would allow cheating, forgery and theft.
The fallout out from this incident included Facebook chief executive officer, Mark Zuckerberg, who appeared in an interview with Fox News. While the full interview will only be released today, a snippet from it has raised our eyebrows.
“We have a different policy I think to Twitter on this. I just believe strongly that Facebook shouldn’t be the arbiter of truth of everything that people say online. In general I think that private companies probably shouldn’t be, especially these platform companies, shouldn’t be in the position of doing that,” said Zuckerberg in the snippet.
While it is just a slice of the interview, we are left scratching our heads.
The reason we’re confused is that despite what Zuckerberg said in that interview Facebook has acted as an “arbiter of truth”. The firm uses a third party to fact check news online, something it details on its Facebook for Business website.
In 2018 the social network partnered with Africa Check and AFP to bring fact checking to South Africa.
In 2019 Instagram – a Facebook company – made the announcement that it will label content that comes from Facebook which is false, as misinformation.
Just this year Facebook labelled a deepfake video featuring Joe Biden seemingly endorsing Trump for re-election as “partly false”.
Perhaps the full interview with Fox News will alleviate our confusion.
Following Zuckerberg’s statement Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey took to his platform to refute what the Facebook CEO said.
“We’ll continue to point out incorrect or disputed information about elections globally. And we will admit to and own any mistakes we make,” tweeted Dorsey.
“This does not make us an ‘arbiter of truth.’ 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,” he added.
The CEO then pointed to Twitter’s Civic integrity policy to inform users about how Twitter decided to label Trump’s tweet.
Dorsey also slammed anybody who had turned its sights on Twitter employees and were blaming them for making the decision. A Fox News report retweeted by Trump slammed Twitter head of site integrity, Yoel Roth, for anti-Trump tweets in 2017 and 2016.
While Fox News claims Roth tweets were never fact checked it fails to mention that the policy in question is specifically applied during elections. Beyond that, the policy was only implemented in October 2018, long after the tweets cited by Fox News.
It seems that face checking is the enemy in the eyes of Donald Trump and we have to wonder, with a global pandemic gripping the world and the US reporting 97 529 deaths, is a war with Twitter over its policies really where his attention should be?[Image – CC BY SA 2.0 Gage Skidmore]