Twitter on Monday opted not to take down or flag a tweet from President Trump that baselessly tied mail-in ballots to voter fraud and foreign election interference. On Tuesday, meanwhile, the platform flagged a Trump tweet threatening "serious force" against protesters seeking to set up an "autonomous zone" in Washington for violating its rules on abusive behavior.
President Trump continues to test tech platforms' willingness to crack
down on abuse and misinformation he spreads on his social media
accounts, a dynamic that will likely intensify as the election
approaches and he seeks to raise doubts about potentially unfavorable
Trump tweeted on Tuesday, "There will never be an 'Autonomous Zone' in Washington, D.C., as long as I’m your President. If they try they will be met with serious force!"
- The tweet was flagged and replaced with a notice
that gave users the option to view the content because Twitter
determined "it may be in the public's interest for the Tweet to remain
- Users are not permitted to share the tweet.
On Monday, Trump railed against mail-in voting in a series of tweets claiming that "millions of mail-in ballots will be printed by foreign countries, and others" and maintaining, "Because of MAIL-IN BALLOTS, 2020 will be the most RIGGED Election in our nations history."
unclear what inspired Trump's claim about foreign countries printing
ballots, and there has never been any link established between mail-in
voting and widespread voter fraud (or indeed any record of widespread
voter fraud in the U.S. at all).
- Trump himself has repeatedly voted by mail in the last three years.
Twitter declined to flag the tweets as election-related misinformation, as it had an earlier series of Trump tweets, because Monday's postings didn't level any specific accusations about election officials' processes on handling voting or mail-in ballots, a company spokesperson told Axios.
- Twitter did create a "Moment" aggregating tweets that debunked Trump's latest claims.
Trump's posts also appeared without being flagged on Facebook, which has taken a broadly more permissive approach than Twitter to Trump's inflammatory messages.
However, testing the boundaries of acceptability on social media is a win-win for Trump's grievance politics. Either platforms give him a pass and let him spread misinformation unimpeded, or they crack down on him, fueling his claims that they're trying to silence him and other conservatives.