Culture

Twitter won't let you retweet false tweets from power users or Trump

First, there were labels and suspensions, now new measures will seek to combat engagement and sharing of falsehoods on the platform.

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Social networks are amplifying their eleventh-hour measures with November 3 right around the corner. In efforts to clamp down on misinformation coming from politicians, their campaigns, and their most rabid fans, Twitter is imposing limits on accounts with more than 100,000 followers. If those accounts tweet content Twitter deems false it'll reduce engagement or amplification possibilities by removing the offending content, or limiting the ability of other Twitter users to like, reply, or retweet it.

According to The Financial Times, Twitter says that these additional measures are to strengthen the ones already in place, which include labeling tweets with erroneous information, and pointing users to legitimate information about mail-in voting and other election-related content.

Donald Trump has repeatedly attempted to question the legitimacy of the mail-in voting system despite having no evidence to support his position. He's also used Twitter, Facebook, and other platforms to try and cast doubt on how to vote, and has refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if the 2020 election doesn't go his way. Should the incumbent try to contest the outcome, well, Twitter has a protocol in place for that, too.

What happens now? — According to The Financial Times, Twitter says that it will take down tweets that are "meant to incite interference with the election process or with the implementation of election results, such as through violent action."

When it comes to the official result of the 2020 presidential election, the company says that it will label premature announcements in order to avoid the spread of misinformation. Facebook is expected to roll out a similar feature and has said that it will only announce the official victor of 2020 after consulting with news agencies like Reuters and the Associated Press. It is expected Twitter will also rely on third-party information from reputable sources before declaring the winner of the election.

A necessary move — Social networks are predicated on user engagement. Without users interacting with content on these platforms and bringing traffic to them, there's no way to sell ads and make money. That disincentivizes them from removing content or limiting interaction. But sometimes removing engagement is crucial. In this case, Twitter is taking a difficult but necessary step of exercising editorial judgment. Precisely the sort of judgment platforms like it should have been required to exercise from their inception.

President Trump, despite frequently enthusing about free speech and First Amendment rights, has called for tech censorship by repealing Section 230.

Sometimes firms have to make hard business decisions for the sake of accuracy and fairness, which is a strategy that should be encouraged. Unlike Mark Zuckerberg, who has accrued infamy for frequently choosing newsworthiness over honesty and even the safety of people, Jack Dorsey is trying — however belated it might be — to do what's necessary to prevent a repeat of the social media-enabled fiasco that was the 2016 election.