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Facebook, Twitter take steps to limit the president’s false election claims

Facebook, Twitter take steps to limit the president’s false election claims


Facebook warns tonight’s results might not be final, Twitter limits spread

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

After a night in which President Donald Trump falsely claimed victory in the presidential election, Facebook has added a notification at the top of Facebook and Instagram feeds saying there was — as yet — no winner.

Earlier in the night, both Twitter and Facebook chose to label a message — identical on both platforms — from Trump reading, “We are up BIG, but they are trying to STEAL the Election. We will never let them do it. Votes cannot be cast after the Polls are closed!” Twitter also placed sharing restrictions on the tweet.

Twitter calls it “a potentially misleading claim about an election”

Early returns were promising for the president, but a number of pivotal states are still counting votes, including Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. This work does not involve additional votes being cast, but instead deals with the unprecedented surge of mail-in ballots that have been officially cast but not yet counted.

Reached for comment, Twitter referred to a tweet from the company’s @safety account shortly after the restrictions were put in place. “We placed a warning on a Tweet from @realDonaldTrump for making a potentially misleading claim about an election,” the tweet reads. “This action is in line with our Civic Integrity Policy.”

Under Twitter’s restrictions, users must click through a warning box to see the tweet when it appears in feeds and homepages, and cannot like or reply to the tweet. Retweets are limited to the “quote tweet” function, where users can only share the message with their own commentary.

President Trump posted the same message to Facebook, where the platform added a label to the post noting that votes are still being counted and directing users to Facebook’s election information center. Facebook has not taken any measures to block the spread of the post within its network.

In a separate message on both platforms, Trump seemed to hint at a future announcement without going so far as to prematurely announce victory. “I will be making a statement tonight. A big WIN!” the post reads. Neither network has taken action against this second post.

Both Twitter and Facebook adopted explicit policies against premature victory announcements in September, and the policies seem to have been applied as they were laid out at the time. Since September 17th, Twitter’s misinformation policy has covered premature claims of victory, making them eligible to be removed by moderators. Facebook’s approach is more limited: it said it would label posts involving the election and redirect viewers to authoritative information. Facebook also placed restrictions on paid promotion of election-related posts, ensuring that candidates can’t use the company’s ad network to boost the claims.

Earlier in the day, Twitter had placed similar restrictions on a member of Trump’s campaign staff. Mike Roman, the campaign’s director of election day activities, had posted tweets alleging widespread voter fraud in Philadelphia, together with video that was later labelled as misleading by the city’s district attorney.

“Misinformation being spread online has driven more calls to the Election Task Force hotline than actual incidents at polling sites,” the district attorney’s office told reporters.

Updated November 4th, 3:32AM ET: Added new information about vote-counting notifications on Facebook and Instagram at the top of their respective feeds.