Twitter have announced new rules and limits in the run-up to the 2020 US election; including early result announcements being marked as misinformation.
On October 9th, Twitter Support tweeted and posted on their blog how they would provide “additional, significant product and enforcement updates that will increase context and encourage more thoughtful consideration before Tweets are amplified.”
Firstly, this included “premature claims of a victory in the election” being labeled as misinformation, with a link provided to Twitter’s own official US Election page. “Tweets that encourage others to interfere with the election process or the results will be removed.”
On the blog, Twitter explains “to determine the results of an election in the US, we require either an announcement from state election officials, or a public projection from at least two authoritative, national news outlets that make independent election calls.”
In addition, those attempting to retweet a tweet with a misleading information label will be given a prompt “directing them to credible information about the topic before they can amplify it.”
Twitter will also be adding “warnings and further restrictions” on tweets that are deemed misleading from “accounts owned by US political figures, US-based accounts with 100,000+ followers, or Tweets that obtain significant engagement.” They will also “temporarily ask people to add their own commentary before amplifying content by prompting Quote Tweets instead of Retweets.”
“Though this adds some extra friction for those who simply want to Retweet,” Twitter explains on their blog, “we hope it will encourage everyone to not only consider why they are amplifying a Tweet, but also increase the likelihood that people add their own thoughts, reactions and perspectives to the conversation.”
What users see on their timelines during the election will also be affected, as Twitter “will prevent ‘liked by’ and ‘followed by’ recommendations from people you don’t follow from showing up in your timeline and won’t send notifications for these Tweets.”
“These recommendations can be a helpful way for people to see relevant conversations from outside of their network, but we are removing them because we don’t believe the “Like” button provides sufficient, thoughtful consideration prior to amplifying Tweets to people who don’t follow the author of the Tweet, or the relevant topic that the Tweet is about. This will likely slow down how quickly Tweets from accounts and topics you don’t follow can reach you, which we believe is a worthwhile sacrifice to encourage more thoughtful and explicit amplification.”
Further, Trends in the For You tab for US users will only “surface” with “additional context.” This is to “more quickly let people know why something is trending and also help reduce the potential for misleading information to spread.”
Twitter has tried desperately over the years to curb accounts they deem abusive or spreading misinformation; even trying to prevent users from being “dunked on”- no matter the reason. These have included limiting an abusive tweet’s visibility, and even changing the default “egg avatar” due to its alleged association with harassment.
The former- better known as shadow banning- resulted in Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey having to testify to the US House Energy and Commerce Committee. This was due to allegations of censorship, especially aimed at those with republican beliefs. Twitter’s terms of service (as of January 2020) effectively wrote shadow banning into their terms [1, 2, 3].
Back in February of this year, images from an experimental branch of Twitter leaked to the public; wherein tweets could be flagged and marked as “harmfully misleading,” with labels with the correct information under it. In late May of this year, Twitter also allowed users to control who could reply to their tweets.
On May 28th, President Donald Trump signed an executive order on “Preventing Online Censorship,” after Twitter marked one of his tweets as “deceptive.” President Trump had expressed concern that mail-in ballots “will be anything less than substantially fraudulent.”
In summation, the executive order ascertains that social media is the modern “public square.” As such they would lose their protections from being liable for what users post, if they use “their power over a vital means of communication to engage in deceptive or pretextual actions stifling free and open debate by censoring certain viewpoints.”
Specifically, this was by “clarifying” section 230(c) of the Communications Decency Act; which offered immunity from liability for social media platforms from what their users posted. Under the executive order, this rescinds the immunity for those who act as “publishers” by “curating” user content.
The executive order makes it so the act serves its “true” purpose- to protect those engaging in “‘Good Samaritan’ blocking” of “harmful content.” The executive order was sent to the FCC on July 27th to be filed.
The above factors have lead many to grow concerned with Twitter’s effect on the 2020 US election, and that Twitter would even go as far as to attempt to prevent or hinder President Trump winning.
Many users had quote retweeted Twitter’s announcement, accusing them of attempting to manipulate the election [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6] via preventing the spread of information, and marking certain truths as misinformation.
In now deleted tweets, Yoel Roth, Twitter’s Head of Site Integrity, claimed that there were “ACTUAL NAZIS IN THE WHITE HOUSE” and “I’m just saying, we fly over those states that voted for a racist tangerine for a reason.”
One particular theory held by some online proposes that major news outlets (who have also been accused of an anti-Trump and anti-republican bias) will not report the results of the election, should Trump win.
In summation, the US election involves the public casting votes for members of the Electoral College, who in turn cast Electoral Votes (almost always in line with what the majority voted for in their state). While the public vote occurs on the first Tuesday after November 1st (Election Day), the Electoral Vote takes place the first Monday after December 12th.
As such, the election is not decided on Election Day, but rather the Electoral Vote. The aforementioned theory proposes that between Election Day and the Electoral Vote, the democrats will create fraudulent mail-in votes (pretending they were missed or failed to arrive for counting on Election Day) as well as somehow throwing out republican votes in order to to win.
The theory further proposes that major news outlets will not announce the result on Election Night should President Trump win (unlike prior elections). If President Trump later fraudulently lost the election his objections would be supposedly easier to dismiss, as the nation would not accept the “standard” of the Election Night results being as good as final.
Democrat politicians and major news outlets would then focus on President Trump “refusing to accept the results of the election;” dismissing accusations of voter fraud by President Trump and his supporters as an excuse or lie to keep him in office.
Some of President Trump’s concerns on mail-in votes may have already come to pass. The US Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania issued a revised statement on an inquiry into reports of issues with mail-in ballots. They had discovered nine military votes had been “discarded,” with seven voting for President Trump.
President Trump also retweeted several news stories today, regarding mail-in voter issues. These included a New Jersey postal employee accused of dumping 1,800 pieces of mail (with 99 ballots), and the Franklin County Board of Elections announcing that 49,669 voters in the county received an incorrect ballot. There was also a story on a Carrolton, Texas Mayoral candidate being arrested for voter fraud,
Twitter’s recent announcement has also prompted criticism that they are acting like a publisher [1, 2], the exact thing the Preventing Online Censorship executive order forbids. At this time of writing, President Trump has not issued any statements regarding Twitter’s announcement.
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Image: Twitter Blog