Twitter, President Trump's favorite form of social media, is attempting to clarify its content-moderation policies after fact-checking some of his posts but failing to do the same for disputed tweets by top Democrats.
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“We are NOT attempting to address all misinformation,” Twitter said on its corporate safety account Tuesday as claims about misleading information swirl in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election.
The race, between Trump and likely Democratic nominee Joe Biden, is heating up amid the worst downturn since the Great Depression and a wave of sometimes-violent protests over the deaths of black men in police custody.
Against that backdrop, claims of misinformation about both the behavior of demonstrators and the source and risks of the COVID-19 pandemic that led to the slump have permeated social media, prompting calls to better ensure accuracy.
At Twitter, such efforts are prioritized "based on the highest potential for harm, focusing on manipulated media, civic integrity, and COVID-19,” the company’s safety team added. “Likelihood, severity and type of potential harm — along with reach and scale — factor into this.”
Twitter, however, did not place fact-check labels on tweets by Biden, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other members of the Democratic Party after they said “peaceful” protestors were tear-gassed and removed from Washington's Lafayette Park before Trump’s walk to St. John’s Church from the White House on Monday evening.
While a number of print and TV news outlets described events similarly, and photos and video showed colored smoke wafting over the area, the U.S. Park Police said that no tear gas was used and that protestors had engaged in violence, “throwing projectiles including bricks, frozen water bottles and caustic liquids.”
Administration officials told Fox News that a bottle had been thrown at Attorney General Bill Barr -- who gave the order to extend the security perimeter in Lafayette Park that resulted in officers pushing back demonstrators -- while he surveyed the site ahead of Trump’s arrival.
Twitter didn't respond to inquiries from FOX Business about how it was handling users' posts on the matter. Both the San Francisco-based company and its rivals have come under heightened scrutiny over the past four years after U.S. intelligence agencies said they failed to prevent manipulation by Russian agents in the 2016 election.
When the platforms began attempting to block inauthentic content, Republicans complained that they were targeting conservatives unfairly while giving a pass to misleading posts from liberals.
Last week, after Twitter labeled the president's tweets, Trump ordered U.S. regulators to revise their enforcement of a law, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, that absolves internet companies of liability for content from third-party users.
The order, which attempts to remove the shield for companies that engage in "political behavior," is already facing a court challenge.
The fact-check tag at the heart of the dispute, added to a tweet from Trump warning about mail-ballot fraud, advised users to "get the facts" on the procedure.
The company said in last night's post explaining its policies that its “focus is on providing context, not fact-checking.” Labeled tweets are, however, linked to Twitter conversations to show factual statements, counterpoint arguments and public perceptions of issues.
Twitter said it will “only add descriptive text that is reflective of the existing public conversation” so that users can form their own opinions. Thousands of tweets worldwide have been labeled – mostly related to COVID-19 and manipulated media, the company said.
Twitter did not immediately respond to FOX Business’ requests for comment on details of the new policy. The company has in the past blocked tweets and suspended user accounts that violate its terms of service.
“We will continue to be transparent in how we make our decisions and be open with our rationale on how we label certain tweets,” the company said. “If we can’t explain and be confident in our determination, we will not label a Tweet.”
Some Twitter users pointed out, however, that the additional information the company cited for Trump's tweet on mail-in ballots was from outlets such as CNN and the Washington Post that conservatives say are left-leaning.
Twitter later added a flag to another Trump tweet that said, "When the looting starts, the shooting starts," saying it violated the website's rules on "glorifying violence."
Facebook did not add labels to either post, both of which were also published on Trump's profile there, highlighting the different policies of social media platforms.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, called on the Justice Department afterward to investigate Twitter for violating U.S. sanctions against Iran by allowing militants from the Islami Republic to post violent tweets in a May 29 letter to Attorney General William Barr.