Twitter’s decision is provoking extensive discussions on a sensitive issue such as the partial limitation of the country’s most important political leader’s free speech and opinion. Trump has already accused Twitter to want to “interfere” with the election campaign for the 2020 presidential election.
Trump’s tweet was about the vote by mail, which is being discussed a lot in the United States because of the coronavirus pandemic. Trump confidently claims that the postal vote would be “distorted” because a lot of ballots would end up being stolen, and that the governor of California (a Democrat) is sending “millions” of ballots, even to those who shouldn’t receive it, and will condition voters in explaining how to vote.
At the bottom of the two tweets that contain the text, Twitter has inserted a sentence in blue – “read how things are on the postal vote” – preceded by an exclamation mark: two elements that clearly signal the content as misleading. The text refers to an article by CNN which explains the many inaccuracies and forcing of Trump’s tweet.
A Twitter spokesman explained to the New York Times that Trump’s tweets on postal voting “contain potentially misleading information on how to vote and have been labeled to provide additional context.”
Twitter had been asking for such a measure for years by several observers. Trump’s fame as a showman and politician is also due to the great attention that his tweets have obtained, which in most cases contain sensationalistic phrases, insults, fake news, baseless insinuations and instigations of violence, which every day read by millions of people (Trump currently has 80.3 million followers on Twitter, but his tweets are taken from newspapers, read on television news, translated into other countries, and so on).
Twitter does not have a feature to report fake news, and in the past it has always refused to report Trump’s tweets as inappropriate, arguing that regardless of the content they were elements of public interest, and that censoring the President of the United States would have made it even more polarized the American public debate. In 2018, he also updated his rules against violent or threatening content by creating an exemption for government accounts.
In recent months, however, his approach seems to have changed: in March he had introduced the label that reports misleading content, and in mid-May he had announced to want to use it more often.
Trump is a serial liar – the Washington Post he calculated that during his tenure he said more than 18 thousand false things – and over the years he had exploited the freedom granted by Twitter to spread false news and conspiracy theories without ever being publicly contradicted, like many other politicians around the world .
In the last few days his behavior had further deteriorated: in addition to the false things written on the postal vote, Trump retweeted a derogatory insult to an African American policy, pushed a conspiracy theory that accuses a popular TV host of murder, and defended his management of the epidemic with patently false data and information.
It is not clear whether the label applied by Twitter will serve to limit the dissemination of false information: for some time now, some studies have reported the lack of effectiveness of such measures. For the moment, moreover, the Twitter rules do not provide for the cancellation of tweets or the suspension of responsible accounts, another of the requests that several critics have been asking for some time.