The presidential election may be over, but it appears Twitter’s war against fake news is only beginning.
The social media network, in the months leading up to Election Day, began to get more aggressive with blocking misinformation, whether about the election or coronavirus. This led to many tweets from President Trump to have disclaimers attached to them, leading to much anger from the president and his supporters.
Closer to Election Day, Twitter began prompting users to ask whether they had read certain items before retweeting them, and even eliminated the immediate retweet function, bringing those seeking to retweet to the “quote tweet” screen, while also warning users about sharing tweets that have received warning labels. And the network also said that they would block or put warning on tweets that falsely claimed that a candidate had won an election that they had not yet won—a function that ended up getting a great deal of use in the ensuing weeks.
Now, even post-election, Twitter has expanded such efforts, to likes.
“Giving context on why a labeled Tweet is misleading under our election, COVID-19, and synthetic and manipulated media rules is vital,” Twitter’s Support account tweeted late Tuesday.
“These prompts helped decrease Quote Tweets of misleading information by 29% so we’re expanding them to show when you tap to like a labeled Tweet.”
Twitter users, of course, had differing reactions to the change. As is usual the case whenever Twitter announces any new feature, many called for an edit button, something Twitter has long resisted adding.
One Twitter user had a surprising idea. Comedian Sarah Cooper, who has become well-known throughout the last year for a bit on TikTok and Twitter in which she lip syncs Trump’s speeches, suggested earlier this week that “if Twitter can slap a warning on Trump’s tweets they can turn off the retweet button on them. If you know it’s false, why do you continue to allow it to be shared?” Doing so, many have pointed out, would make Cooper’s own job much harder.
Twitter will next face the question, once the Trump Administration is over, of whether to treat his account any differently once he is no longer a head of state. Twitter’s rules provide a certain amount of leeway for users who are “world leaders, candidates, and public officials,” which explains why the president’s account, as well as that of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, remain Twitter users of good standing despite what appear to be serial violations of the company’s terms of service.
That may change once Trump is an ex-president, although should he declare that he is running again in 2024, Trump may retain those protections.
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.