Inside Twitter’s Decision to Fact-Check Trump’s Tweets
‘We knew from a comms perspective that all hell would break loose,’ says Twitter’s vice president of global communications
At 8:17 a.m. on Tuesday, Donald Trump sent a characteristically aggrieved tweet claiming that mail-in ballots were “fraudulent,” and that ballots would be stolen and forged, leading to a “rigged election.” At first, not much happened: These sorts of tweets from Trump are an everyday occurrence, and Twitter had never taken action on one before.
Within 24 hours, however, Twitter had fact-checked the U.S. president for the first time, adding a label to his tweets encouraging viewers to “get the facts” about California’s mail-in ballot plans. The label triggered fury from the White House, and the vilification of a previously obscure Twitter employee, Yoel Roth, on Fox News, which led to death threats. Trump continued to target Roth on Thursday.
Within 48 hours of the fact-check, Trump was preparing to issue an executive order that would ban federal spending on social platforms that exercise certain editorial powers and encourage the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general to launch investigations against them. The order could spark a reassessment of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, the law that underpins much of the modern Internet.
Brandon Borrman, Twitter’s vice president of global communications, talked to OneZero about the company’s decision. That conversation, coupled with information from other Twitter representatives and public statements from the company’s executives, shed light on just how the company arrived at that fateful fact-check, and the roles played by Roth and others, including CEO Jack Dorsey. It adds up to a picture of a company that knew full well what it was doing when it fact-checked the president — and what kind of reaction it would spark from the White House.
“The company needed to do what’s right, and we knew from a comms perspective that all hell would break loose,” Borrman told OneZero.
Trump’s tweet about mail-in ballots was first flagged on Tuesday morning, not by anyone at Twitter, but by one of the third-party nonprofits that partners with Twitter via…