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Twitter Is Not the Arbiter of Truth

Updated on June 4, 2020

Twitter has added a new fact-checking label on President Trump’s tweets about mail-in ballots, this is wrong.

Trump tweeted out ““there is NO WAY (ZERO!) that Mail-In-Ballots will be anything less than substantially fraudulent,” and that “mailboxes will be robbed, ballots will be forged & even illegally printed out & fraudulently signed.” Twitter put a label that stated “Get the facts about mail-in ballots,” linking to a page titled "Trump makes unsubstantiated claim that mail-in ballots will lead to voter fraud" with paragraph explaining that "experts say mail-in ballots are very rarely linked to voter fraud."

The issue is that fact-checking Trump is not Twitter’s role as a company; it’s not how they market themselves. Twitter labels itself as “…a global platform for public self-expression and conversation in real time. By developing a fundamentally new way for people to create, distribute and discover content, we have democratized content creation and distribution, enabling any voice to echo around the world instantly and unfiltered,” as described in their IPO filling in 2013.

Twitter is not acting like a “global platform” they are moving into being a publisher. A publisher involves regulating the content that comes out of your website. Twitter by fact-checking Trump is doing editorial discretion; they are acting as a publisher. This opens them up to publisher liability with the content that comes out of their website.

The fact-check they made had mutually exclusive information. The information expressed on the fact-checking section contradicted itself by saying that mail-in ballots are rarely linked to voter fraud and that there is "no evidence" linking mail-in ballots to fraud. It’s also the case that the fact-check was incorrect, voter fraud does exist and it has helped both Republicans and Democrats win.

For example in 2018 the Florida Department of Law Enforcement say they found DNA found envelopes which led to voter fraud charges. They took saliva from five mail-in ballots. This led to 36-year-old Bret Warren fingerprints being matched on all of the envelopes. There have been over 1,285 cases of election fraud as of writing, according to the Heritage Foundation.

Lastly the idea that Twitter is going to be the arbiter of truth should be scary for anyone who believes in the marketplace of ideas. No matter what your opinion is on mail-in ballots Twitter has been crossing the line between being a publisher or platform when it comes to promoting free speech and also silencing certain voices. Certain actions such as banning have taken place.

In late November 2018 self-described feminist Megan Murphy was banned by saying “men aren’t women” and referring a transgender woman as “him” during a heated discussion on Twitter.

That same year Iraq War veteran and former GOP congressional candidate Jesse Kelly was banned from Twitter for ambiguous reasons, Twitter later came out stating that it was Kelly’s job to tell Twitter why he was banned. Bear in mind that according to his testimony he never received any messages from Twitter notifying him of any kind of violation of the platform's terms of service.

Whether you believe these examples were morally right or wrong the bottom line is that Twitter regulated its service. They are pushing an ideological agenda by saying you can’t misgender someone, and in some instances they can ban you without any explanation. There was an argument between two people, and Twitter actively took a side by banning one of those people. Kelly is a Republican commentator, and Twitter actively took a side by banning him.

This moves Twitter more as a publisher because they are "editorializing" their services. If Twitter wants to continue to market itself as a platform then they need to act as one. Promote the free market of ideas and ultimately the best ideas will win.

The majority of Trump’s tweets are just him foaming at the mouth about partisan issues. Most of his tweets are not helpful, they divide rather than unite, and sometimes they hurt his chances of being elected in 2020.

With all of that in mind, Trump and all free thinkers need to have a place for their views to be heard. The only way to change minds is by listening and beating ideas. Putting fact-checking labels on divisive tweets do nothing but bring conservatives and Trump supporters to believe that Twitter is against them. That they need to move and more into their echo chamber because social media platforms are not a place for the free market of ideas. Twitter should not fact-check Trump’s tweets; Twitter is not the arbiter of truth.

© 2020 Steven A Hall


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