US, WASHINGTON (ORDO NEWS) — On Tuesday, on the most ordinary day of 2020, President Donald Trump woke up, opened Twitter, and pulled a couple of messages about the conspiracy theory that one TV presenter from a cable that he hates could have killed someone many years ago . Later that day, Twitter made a fateful decision to mark the president’s messages as false information. Oddly enough, due to a completely different series of tweets.
It was a bold move that Trump‘s enemies and critics of Twitter itself have long been waiting for. But it turned out a little awkward. Before the elections, which are expected to become the most controversial in American history since the Civil War, less than six months remain, and social media platforms still have not figured out how to verify political information for reliability.
“Twitter” decided to take extreme measures because of two tweets, which allegedly fraught with voting by mail during the coronavirus pandemic:
There is NO WAY (ZERO!) that Mail-In Ballots will be anything less than substantially fraudulent. Mail boxes will be robbed, ballots will be forged & even illegally printed out & fraudulently signed. The Governor of California is sending Ballots to millions of people, anyone…..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 26, 2020
Later that evening, Twitter added a note to the bottom of the tweet: a large exclamation mark and a link from the Moments team, “Find out the facts about voting by mail.” Her bold headline reads, “Trump’s statement that voting by mail will lead to fraud is unfounded.” This is followed by a short “explanation” about the voting by mail from several points, and then a more detailed analysis of recent Trump statements in a series of tweets.
Why has Twitter reacted just now? The company says that none of Trump’s provocative tweets violated the platform’s rules. However, a tweet about voting by mail got into the border territory of misleading information. And the company found this so fundamental that it decided to fix it. On May 11, Twitter announced a new approach to fact-checking, but until this week it had only been dealing with incorrect tweets about Covid-19. (Tweets, which the company considers dangerous, are being deleted. It is noteworthy that recently Twitter removed the posts of the presidents of Brazil and Venezuela with the propaganda of quack pseudo-drugs).
As a spokeswoman for Twitter explained, marking Trump’s postal voting postings is the debut step of a new policy to protect “civic ethics”. False voting or national census information will be corrected. There was a clear disinfection in Trump’s particular tweet – like California was sending out ballots to “everyone in a row.” In fact, ballots are sent only to registered voters.
We must pay tribute to Twitter for the courage and concern for the public good. It is not easy to butt with the most powerful person in the world, especially when he is an active user of your platform and spends a considerable part of his free time on petty blunders. But the execution of the plan leaves much to be desired. After many years of debate, whether it is worth noting false statements from elected representatives and how, social networks can not develop a consistent approach.
Verification of the facts requires subtle judgments about what truth is, how it should be said, and who can be trusted. This is not easy even in areas such as science and medicine, where there are authoritative bodies, generally accepted standards and substantial knowledge. In politics – consider it impossible. On the shoulders of the Moments team lay a daunting task. According to a spokeswoman for Twitter, these are professionals in their field, whose task is to build posts on social networks into a single story.
No one doubts this, but it does not make them arbiters in matters of truth. Take, for example, the section “What you need to know about voting by mail”. “Although Trump singled out California separately, postal voting is used in several other states, including Oregon, Utah, and Nebraska.” In fact, this statement in its own way is also misleading. First, voting in one form or another is permitted in all 50 states. Secondly, Oregon and Utah are two of the five states that have mailed the general election. Before the pandemic, California was on the way to becoming the sixth on this list. But not Nebraska. And since most users will stop at this and will not click further, they will safely conclude that California is going to implement a system that is already being used in Nebraska.
It is noteworthy that even after several years of preparation for such a significant attempt to bring Trump to clean water, Twitter did not bother to reconcile its own facts. (On Wednesday, the company nevertheless made the necessary amendments).
Perhaps that is why the company relies on independent professionals. Social media platforms – not only Twitter, but Facebook and YouTube – generally like to hide behind the opinions of third-party “testers”. Twitter checks the facts in a stylized form based on other people’s tweets – because of the format of 280 characters, readers can only guess about the reliability of the links. Some of the cited sources themselves cite other articles and studies, where the topic is revealed more fully.
Tuesday’s events highlight the flaws of this approach. Thus, Chris Cillizza from CNN, infamous for his increased attention to inter-party disputes, is cited as an authoritative source. The tweet from journalist Jennifer Bendery from the openly liberal The Huffington Post is quoted below. Her source? Oregon Governor Kate Brown, a Democrat who responded: “Yes, he does not know what he is talking about.” Maybe this is so, but the fact that another politician does not agree with Trump does not yet prove him wrong. The president would have blamed Twitter for bias anyway – but that kind of “expert” just made it easier for him.
Disputes about the verification of facts on social networks usually boil around tricky, and in their own way philosophical questions like freedom of speech and control over the Internet. But the problem with freelancers is much more common: it happens that third-party “testers” are no better than politicians who are debunked and also lie like gray geldings. Since 2016, Facebook has separately tagged posts that organizations like Politifact and Factcheck.org have found to be misleading (However, politicians, including Trump, are not subject to these rules – “even if they have been disproved in other places.”) Absurdities happen. Earlier this month, Facebook marked the advertisement against Trump “partially false” on the grounds that it was disputed by Politifact – “Trump abandoned the Wall Street life buoy, but not Main Street.” Given that this is a metaphor, and, moreover, quite muddy, to judge the veracity of this judgment is simply impossible. However, Politifact director Aaron Sharockman told Steven Levy of Wired: “I really like our tag. I think we did everything right. ”
Even the most famous “testers”, and they sometimes sit in a puddle. In 2018, Glenn Kessler of The Washington Post awarded Bernie Sanders three Pinocchio (on a four-point scale) for advertising a study claiming that universal public health insurance would reduce overall costs $ 2 trillion health care. The author himself complained to Kessler that the Democrats were losing sight of the fact that government spending would increase, believing that this was an important point. But the figure of 2 trillion dollars is taken directly from his article. So objectively Sanders judgment is true. Last summer, after the Democratic Party’s first debate, Kessler and his team challenged Sanders’s claim that “the three richest Americans are richer than half the country.” Considering debts, they noted, it turns out that the poorest half of Americans generally have negative incomes. For some reason, the statement of Sanders from this passed into the category of lies.
It’s not me who is barring Sanders. The fact is that it is difficult to determine the truth in politics, because its whole essence is to convince others to agree with your interpretation of reality. Professional “testers” pretend to be higher than this, but in reality they are the same participants in the process. But this is exactly what social networks want to avoid.
Therefore, so far the achievements of Twitter leave much to be desired. A few hours after the debut fact-checking, Trump, as one would expect, made accusations that Twitter “interferes in the 2020 presidential election” and “strangles freedom of speech.” The next morning, he continued his ranting: “Republicans believe that social networks drown out the voices of conservatives. We will not allow this and we will strictly regulate them until closing. ”
There is no need to explain the irony: Trump accuses Twitter of censorship – of Twitter itself. Suffice it to say that the well-intentioned efforts of the platform can be broken into a compromise so that nobody feels good. Trump is not going to part with his mouthpiece, cries of discrimination against conservatives have received new recharge, and Trump critics are confident that Twitter has limited itself to half measures.
But let’s still not write off Twitter. Trump, perhaps, continued his tirade about voting by mail, tweeting the next day that it would be “a mess and fraud,” but at least he did not repeat the frank lie about the California ballots. Although the president loves pathos, he is vulnerable. With his morning abuse he proved that he hates being corrected. Maybe the risk of parting with a small blue checkmark will make him and other politicians think carefully about whether it is worth spreading flagrant misinformation. This is a big “if” and a small victory, but, nevertheless, it is a victory.
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