Is Twitter right to flag Trump's tweet about “ballot dumps”?


Fact Box

  • Twitter originally claimed itself to be the “free speech wing of the free speech party.”  
  • Twitter has been more aggressive in the fight against disinformation on its platform recently, placing warning labels on President Trump about mail-in ballots and another during a protest where he said 'looting' would lead to 'shooting.'
  • In October, Twitter posted a Civic Integrity Policy stating that they would not allow the manipulation or interference in elections or civic processes. “In addition, we may label and reduce the visibility of Tweets containing false or misleading information about civic processes in order to provide additional context.”
  • On Wednesday, Trump tweeted, “Last night I was leading, often solidly, in many key states, in almost all instances Democrat run & controlled… Then, one by one, they started to magically disappear as surprise ballot dumps were counted. VERY STRANGE, and the 'pollsters' got it completely & historically wrong!” It was labeled as misleading by Twitter. 
  • The election results will come in later than usual this year because of the increased number of mail-in-ballots due to the coronavirus pandemic. Some states did not have a mail-in process solidified before the election, hence the slow down.

Katherine (Yes)

Twitter's decision to flag President Trump's tweet alleging that 'surprise ballot dumps' are costing him his lead in swing states is appropriate. The label they placed on his tweet rightly identifies that the president's claim is false and misleading. What Trump calls 'ballot dumps' is the delivery of perfectly legal mail ballots. Several states—including the important swing states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin—do not allow mail ballots to be counted before election day. Mail ballots don't exclusively favor Trump, though surveys suggest more Democrats voted by mail, which explains why Trump's apparent early lead diminished in several states.

The president's allegations are false but have the ability to make people believe the election is fraudulent, and the results are illegitimate. Because he's in a position of authority, his words carry weight: he could falsely lead people to the conclusion that the election is invalid. It's important the president is held accountable for his written speech on Twitter, and that's what the platform’s label attempts to do. Twitter is a private company; they have the right to determine the guidelines by which users must abide. They are not bound by the First Amendment. They can censor anyone’s tweets because they cannot control people's actions off their platform. Twitter is not blocking anyone from viewing the president's tweet. Their flag simply alerts the user to the fact it may contain false information. This then allows the viewer to make up their own minds about whether to view and believe it.

Bill (No)

Twitter was wrong to flag President Trump's tweet about 'ballot dumps.' Trump's offending tweet was actually a re-tweet of Michigan vote tallies showing screenshots of a sudden increase of 138,339 votes—all in Biden's favor. Trump's caption on his re-tweet in all caps was, 'WHAT IS THIS ALL ABOUT?' Twitter users have free will to determine whether a point of view is legitimate or not. They don't need Twitter to censor or add their own biased commentary. Twitter's censorship is a dangerous and corrosive trend to limit freedom of expression, which is Constitutionally guaranteed.

In a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf rebuked Dorsey as follows: 'As the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and other Federal agencies continue to rely on Twitter to share important information with the U.S. public, your censorship poses a threat to our security.' It's no secret social media dominates information flow in the 21stCentury. Companies like Twitter and Facebook are virtual monopolies, and 'have an obligation to act in the public interest.' Censorship (especially of the president and government agencies like the Department of Homeland Security) is not in the public interest.

By flagging President Trump's tweets, Twitter is essentially imposing a form of corporate parental guidance on its users. There was nothing false about the president's tweet; he was merely expressing his concern for what appeared to be an unexplainable and drastic change in Michigan's vote count. Twitter's interference was intrusive and wholly unnecessary. Americans should be concerned about corporate meddling in something as basic as questioning the voting process to ensure that it's fair.

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