Twitter points users to fact checks of Trump tweets for the first time

This April 26, 2017, file photo shows the Twitter app icon on a mobile phone in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

This April 26, 2017, file photo shows the Twitter app icon on a mobile phone in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Twitter has placed a fact-checking warning on a tweet issued by President Trump in which he claims without evidence that mail-in ballots are fraudulent.

Twitter’s move on Tuesday marks the first time the technology company has sanctioned Trump as criticism mounts about how the president has amplified misinformation to more than 80 million followers on the social media platform.

Twitter spokesman Trenton Kennedy told NPR that while the tweet about mail-in voting does not violate Twitter’s Rules, since “it does not directly try to dissuade people from voting,” it does contain “misleading information about the voting process, specifically mail-in ballots.”

The action is the latest confrontation between Washington and Silicon Valley with a presidential election just months away.

Brad Parscale, Trump 2020 campaign manager, suggested Twitter was attempting to impinge on the president’s free speech rights and accused the company of being anti-Trump.

“We always knew that Silicon Valley would pull out all the stops to obstruct and interfere with President Trump getting his message through to voters,” Parscale said. “Partnering with the biased fake news media ‘fact checkers’ is only a smoke screen Twitter is using to try to lend their obvious political tactics some false credibility. There are many reasons the Trump campaign pulled all our advertising from Twitter months ago, and their clear political bias is one of them.”

Earlier this month, Twitter announced a move to combat the spread of misinformation about the coronavirus. Twitter said it will place labels on misleading or disputed information about the virus “regardless of who the speaker is.”

Critics of Twitter have complained that it has placed Trump above its attempts to enforce its rules aimed at making the platform more civil.

Twitter’s action on Tuesday allowing users to “get the facts” about what Trump was tweeting comes just as the social media platform faces a wave of criticism for its inaction on a tweet sent by Trump advancing a groundless conspiracy theory about the death of a former staffer of Joe Scarborough, a television host who has been a frequent Trump target.

On Twitter, Trump pushed the baseless theory that Scarborough killed Lori Kaye Klausutis, 28, who was found dead in then-U.S. Rep. Scarborough’s office in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., in July 2001.

“There has been a constant barrage of falsehoods, half-truths innuendo and conspiracy theories since she died,” widower Timothy J. Klausutis wrote last week to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. “Because of this, I have struggled to move forward with my life.”

He went on to ask Dorsey: “My request is simple: Please delete these tweets,”

Despite the plea, Twitter has not removed the tweet advancing the false conspiracy theory about the death of Lori Kaye Klausutis, who died of an undiagnosed heart condition. Dorsey never directly replied to Timothy’s Klausutis’ letter.

But in a statement, Twitter spokesman Trenton Kennedy said the Scarborough tweets do not violate company policies.

“We’ve drawn lines for certain issue areas, including civic integrity and voting,” Kennedy said. “However, as we said on the Scarborough Tweets, 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.”

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