President Donald Trump will reportedly reveal an executive order designed to “regulate” social media on Thursday, after Twitter applied its fact-check label to two Trump tweets containing false claims about mail-in ballots.
The executive tantrum, and a Fox News appearance by senior White House advisor Kellyanne Conway where she goaded viewers to harass Twitter’s head of site integrity Yoel Roth, spurred a stern response from Twitter cofounder and CEO Jack Dorsey.
“Fact check: there is someone ultimately accountable for our actions as a company, and that’s me,” Dorsey tweeted. “Please leave our employees out of this. We’ll continue to point out incorrect or disputed information about elections globally.”
Fact check: there is someone ultimately accountable for our actions as a company, and that’s me. Please leave our employees out of this. We’ll continue to point out incorrect or disputed information about elections globally. And we will admit to and own any mistakes we make.
— jack (@jack) May 28, 2020
Dorsey clarified that Trump’s tweets were fact-checked because they “may mislead people into thinking they don’t need to register to get a ballot.”
Roth also confirmed earlier this month that Trump’s tweets would be no exception to the site’s rules about coronavirus misinformation.
The fact-check applied to Trump’s tweets this week about mail-in ballots therefore shouldn’t have been a surprise, yet it sent the president into a tailspin. Trump hit back with two tweets claiming that conservative voices were being “silence[d]” and threatening to “strongly regulate” social media companies or “close them down.”
The threat was then backed up by the announcement of an executive order to be signed Thursday. It is expected to reference Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects platforms from being held responsible for user content published on their sites under the principle that they are not “publishers.”
Dorsey also directly addressed statements Mark Zuckerberg made on Wednesday in response to the incident. Facebook’s CEO told Fox’s Dana Perino that private companies shouldn’t be “the arbiter of truth” when asked whether he agreed with Twitter’s decision to tag Trump’s tweets with its fact-check link.
“Our intention is to connect the dots of conflicting statements and show the information in dispute so people can judge for themselves,” Dorsey tweeted, not mentioning Zuckerberg by name but rejecting the “arbiter of truth” characterization.
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.
— jack (@jack) May 28, 2020
While Trump’s account is regularly given a pass on statements and behavior that would see other users suspended or banned, election misinformation is one area where Twitter has been clear and firm on its policies. Earlier this year, a Twitter rolled out a tool in the U.S. that was previously used in other regions to help users report content that could dissuade, mislead, or otherwise prevent voters from participating in an election.
Trump has lied over 3,300 times on Twitter alone since his election, according to the Washington Post. This is the first time the company has applied a fact check link to his tweets, and it’s unlikely it will be the last.