As Twitter starts a fact-check crusade against the president, conservatives become outraged at the social media platform and Trump sounds off
Memorial Day weekend was much like many other weekends during the Trump presidency; President Trump did not miss the opportunity to tweet his every thought.
Last weekend, the thoughts regarded Joe Scarburough and mail-in votes. In response to some of the president’s tweets, Twitter launched a fact checking campaign. The campaign added links to the president’s tweets stating “Get the facts about mail-in ballots.”Twitter’s actions are blurring the line between publisher and platform. As publishers, they can control their media more. As a platform, they would have to provide less speech regulation. These qualifications are extremely important when it comes to litigating cases against them regarding the first amendment.
You see, there is a section in the Communications Decency Act (CDA), section 230(c), which provides limited liability protections to online platforms that do not act as publishers but as mediums for other publishers. Technically, Twitter gets protected from lawsuits about what individuals publish because they are not the ones publishing them. As soon as they start to make editorial decisions, i.e. materially altering tweets or choosing what to and not to promote, they lose their protections and are open to liabilities.
This section is basically what allows Twitter to exist. There would be no way for the app to sift through every tweet, and due to the amount of lawsuits that would ensue, the private business would have little to no chance of success.
So, why did Twitter begin their fact checking crusade? Well, their addition seems to imply that what the president is saying about mail-in ballots is untrue. Their added link sends individuals to another page on Twitter with more facts about the system.
This page suggests what the president said was completely false and there is no evidence that mail-in voting will lead to a rigged election or voter fraud. Essentially, the site claimed he was spewing false information.
Upon not much further research, I found this past Tuesday in West Virginia a mail carrier was charged with “manipulation of absentee voter requests.” Allegedly, the man altered five ballots by switching their party affiliation.
In October of 2016, just before the election, The New York Times reported mail in voting was increasing at a higher rate than ever. According to the article, “Votes cast by mail are less likely to be counted, more likely to be compromised and more likely to be contested than those cast in a voting booth, statistics show.”
The New York Times even suggested “voting by mail is now common enough and problematic enough that election experts say there have been multiple elections in which no one can say with confidence which candidate was the deserved winner.”
Well, four years later, the same paper is publishing an article titled, “Trump Is Pushing a False Argument on Vote-by-Mail Fraud. Here Are the Facts.” In this article, they simultaneously use quotes from academics saying, “Voting fraud in the United States is rare, less rare is fraud using mail ballots,” while in the next sentence stating a case of ballot harvesting that occurred during the 2018 election.
Whichever side the Times stands on now, NPR reports “election experts say Trump is partially correct, that there is slightly more fraud in mail-in voting than in-person voting.”
So, Twitter is fact checking the president and not even doing it correctly.
I agree the president, like every other prominent official, should do their absolute best to only promote true statements. I also believe individuals have the responsibility of looking into those statements and deciding whether or not they believe them.
Here is what I do not believe in: assuming that everything our president says is false because you disagree with him politically. I do not believe in implementing a top-down system in which an entire social media platform fact checks his tweets for me. Unless this is going to happen sitewide across both aisles, this is clearly a politically charged move.
Along the same lines, I condemn the president’s response stating he “will strongly regulate or close [Twitter] down” in reference to social media that attempts to silence conservatives.
Top-down control of speech is not, I repeat not, the way to respond to Twitter’s actions. I am in favor of absolutely no one stifling free speech. I am less in favor of the government getting involved in this.
Since these comments, the president released his executive order on Thursday detailing what he was asking of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The order states that “all executive departments and agencies should ensure that their application of section 230(c) properly reflects the narrow purpose of the section and take all appropriate actions in this regard.”
The president’s order asks the FCC clarifies the guidelines between publisher and platform because Twitter seems to be walking a very fine line in only fact checking the president. This order does not seem to pose much of a threat as it ends by stating that “this order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.”
President Trump’s executive action seems to be more of a warning to Twitter, seeing as he does not have the power to shut it down entirely. He is merely showing them they should tread lightly, because if he leaves Twitter, I can only imagine how many will follow.
Even CEO Mark Zuckerberg stated he “strongly [believes] that Facebook shouldn’t be the arbiter of truth of everything that people say online.” He added, “Private companies probably shouldn’t be, especially these platform companies, shouldn’t be in the position of doing that.”
All I ask of Twitter is if they are going to fact-check the president to have a movement against fake news on their site, they do it to every user.
Unfortunately, until that happens, many conservatives are not pleased with the site. This is causing many conservatives to leave Twitter and join a new app named Parler. This app promotes itself as a “non-biased, free speech social media focused on protecting user’s rights.”
In an attempt to combat the media mobs on Twitter, this app is promoting free speech and is seeming to provide a safe-haven for conservatives.
This is how the public works. When something happens you don’t like, invent something that will change it. Do not let the government get involved.
If the president tweets something you think is wrong, do your research.
As someone studying journalism, my number one goal is to find the truth. I do not want the president spreading false information. With that said, it is up to individuals to learn what is false, otherwise Twitter becomes the arbiter of all truth. Soon, they decide Christian truth is untrue and we are no longer allowed to say God.
Unless something is putting someone in immediate danger, Twitter should have no say in this matter.
That being said, they are a private company and could technically do whatever they please, as they are not bound by the first amendment. All I have to suggest is if Twitter wishes to keep the protections from section 230(c), they proceed with caution in attempting to silence voices.
Do not let Twitter, Facebook or any other platform be your truth. Do the research and find the truth for yourself. Take everything from both sides of the political aisle with a grain of salt. Do not let anyone tell you point blank what is true.
No one gets a monopoly on the facts.