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

Will Oremus


Photo: AFP/Getty Images

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…