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Twitter and Facebook label baseless Trump post suggesting Democrats manipulated ballot counts

Twitter and Facebook label baseless Trump post suggesting Democrats manipulated ballot counts


Sites have walked a fine line addressing misinformation

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Michigan Election Workers Continue To Work Absentee Ballots
Photo by Elaine Cromie/Getty Images

Twitter and Facebook have continued to restrict and label posts from President Donald Trump after yesterday’s presidential election, this time addressing a baseless claim that Democratic officials were manipulating vote counts in key states. Twitter flagged the tweet and restricted its reach, saying it was “disputed and might be misleading.” Facebook added a general warning that “final results may be different from the initial vote counts.”

Trump triggered a social media crackdown early this morning after accusing Democrats of trying to steal the election. Neither platform has actually removed his claims. Their policies were set before the election. “We placed a warning on this Tweet for making a potentially misleading claim about an election,” said Twitter in a statement to The Verge.

Trump tweeted that “last night I was leading, often solidly, in many key states, in almost all instances Democrat run and controlled,” but “one by one, they started to magically disappear as surprise ballot dumps were counted. VERY STRANGE.” He is apparently referring to the normal process of counting absentee ballots.

Trump isn’t the only user whose posts have been labeled. Wisconsin Democratic Party chair Ben Wikler was censured for tweeting that “Joe Biden just won Wisconsin,” as votes were still being counted. (Wikler didn’t post an equivalent claim on Facebook.) And Twitter restricted a misleading video posted by a member of Trump’s campaign team.

As tech policy expert Pranesh Prakash noted, Twitter’s aggressive approach has seemingly produced some false positives; it flagged a New York Times reporter who tweeted that “the clerk has returned with printer ink” at a ballot-counting location. But that label doesn’t stop people from engaging normally with the tweet, unlike Trump’s offending missive, which users cannot favorite or reply to.

Social networks are also in the delicate position of fact-checking claims that were made on traditional television networks. Trump prematurely declared victory last night before a live TV audience and called for “all voting to stop.” Twitter declined to label the video, saying that “recordings or clips of the press conference on their own are not a violation of our policies.”