Twitter labelled two of Donald Trump’s tweets with a fact-check warning on Tuesday for the first time, prompting the president to accuse the platform of “stifling free speech.”
The social media platform applied the tag on two of Trump’s tweets that made claims, without evidence, that voting with mail-in ballots would be “substantially fraudulent.” The labels say “Get the facts about mail-in ballots” and direct users to a collection of news reports and articles debunking the tweets.
Near the top of Twitter’s fact-check page, a statement reads: “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.”
Twitter spokesperson Katie Rosborough said the tweets were labelled because they contain “potentially misleading information about voting processes and have been labelled to provide additional context around mail-in ballots.”
Shortly after the labels were added, Trump tweeted claims that the platform was attempting to interfere in the 2020 presidential election.
The platform had rolled out a new policy earlier this month that it would label misleading information about Covid-19. The company said at the time it would potentially expand this effort to other areas.
“Moving forward, we may use these labels and warning messages to provide additional explanations or clarifications in situations where the risks of harm associated with a Tweet are less severe but where people may still be confused or misled by the content,” a company post read at the time.
Twitter said this would make it easier for users to “find facts and make informed decisions” about what they see on the platform.
Rosborough said Tuesday’s move was in line with the new policy and confirmed it was the first time one of Trump’s tweets had been labelled.
The social media giant has faced mounting pressure to take responsibility for the president’s persistent use of the platform to spread misinformation and baseless conspiracy theories. Earlier on Tuesday, Twitter was criticised for declining to remove Trump’s tweets suggesting MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, a former Republican congressman, might have killed 28-year-old intern Lori Klausutis when she worked in his Florida office. She died in 2001 after hitting her head on a desk. Authorities determined she fainted due to a previously undiagnosed heart condition and ruled her death an accident.
Lori Klausutis’s widower, Timothy Klausutis, wrote a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey last week imploring Twitter to take down the president’s tweets. It was dated last week but gained attention Tuesday when the New York Times’ Kara Swisher published it in an op-ed.
Twitter issued a statement Tuesday, saying: “We are deeply sorry about the pain these statements, and the attention they are drawing, are causing the family.
“We’ve been working to expand existing product features and policies so we can more effectively address things like this going forward, and we hope to have those changes in place shortly.”