OAKLAND, CA (AP) – For the past four years, President Donald Trump has enjoyed a special status as a world leader on Twitter and Facebook, even as he used his perch at the top of the social media pyramid to create misinformation and abuse critics.
While regular users may have faced suspending or even starting platforms, Trump’s misleading proclamations and personal attacks have so far received only warning labels.
But can he jerk his loose leash on the platforms on January 20 when his successor, Joe Biden, is inaugurated?
Here are some questions and answers about the activities of companies – and failed – why Twitter’s response was stronger than Facebook’s, and what if we could see anything about the platforms in the coming weeks and months as soon as their top-level user is no longer in the White House.
WHY DO YOU LIKE A LOT OF TRUMP NEWS?
Ever since he lost his re-election offer, Trump has been spreading lies alleged electoral fraud and otherwise trying to delegitimize Biden’s victory. Twitter and Facebook mostly responded by adding warning labels to their statements and gently directing people to authentic information.
But it’s not just Trump’s tweets. Since the end of October, Twitter has tagged hundreds of thousands of posts based on its “civic integrity” policy, flagging controversial or potentially misleading posts about the election, the voting process, and the results. The idea was to prevent voter oppression and early declarations of victory – in other words, to defend the democratic process in an extraordinary election year carried out by an epidemic that resulted in millions of people voting for the first time in a letter.
On Twitter, more than 100 of Trump’s tweets and retweets have been tagged according to this policy since election day. For example, on November 15, where he wrote, “I WIN THE CHOICE! below is a label that reads, “Several sources have named the election differently” Other false and misleading tweets about voter fraud are labeled “This allegation of election fraud is disputed”. When clicked, users are led to credible sources of information about election results and the occurrence of voter fraud, which is extremely rare.
Facebook has also placed tags in several of its posts on election results. Recently, they said, “Joe Biden is the planned winner of the 2020 U.S. presidential election.”
WHAT IS FACEBOOK AND Twitter, DIFFERENT?
Both companies have been more aggressive in treating Trump’s statements about election fraud and false victory claims than other misinformation issues during his presidency. But Twitter has done more to limit their spread by putting them behind warning labels and braking them in other ways before people spread them.
Many of Facebook’s tags, which were placed on voting statements and pictures posted by all U.S. users during the election, could only be removed by clicking on an “X”. Both companies changed the labeling of Trump’s victory claims after several news organizations, including The Associated Press, called for competition for Biden. Twitter now says, “Several sources have called these elections differently,” while Facebook calls Bident the winner. Tagged posts can still be shared or retweeted on both platforms, although pop-ups try to get users to stop and think before they do.
DO THE LABELS WORK?
With some measures – public relations for sure – social media companies performed better in 2020 than in 2016, when they protect the integrity of U.S. elections. But critics say the labels themselves often show little more than coverage for social media platforms, merely giving the appearance of defending against misinformation.
If the platforms continue to allow Trump and others to disseminate false information, there will be no consequences other than generic labels, even labeling individual posts won’t help much. In fact, if all entries are tagged, the tags quickly lose any effect.
Of course, both companies did more than label. They encouraged voting, obtained credible information, and watched for foreign and domestic intervention efforts. But the warnings were the most spectacular effort: easy to review, easy to point out, and arguably easy to ignore.
The action of social networks has been a step in the right direction, but it has not been as effective, said Jennifer Grygiel, a professor at Syracuse University and a social media expert.
“Every platform has a different risk profile,” Grygiel said. In the case of Twitter, the risk stems from being a real-time platform for people who go for instant news. This means that the tag applied to the tweet only 15 minutes after it was sent is too late. Facebook is less immediate, but the risk is spreading. If an entry is tagged but can spread further, that’s not enough.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER PROVIDED?
Trump will return to his private citizenship and be subject, at least on paper, to the official rules of the platforms, as to any other user. Twitter’s rules exempt “world leaders” from certain rules, such as rules glorifying violence or inciting harassment. This means that even if they violate company rules, their tweets may remain behind a warning label (there are exceptions that are prohibited even for world leaders, such as promoting terrorism or threatening someone with direct violence).
On January 20, after Biden’s inauguration, Trump loses that world leadership status.
The big change on Facebook will be that Trump’s posts will be eligible for fact verification by third-party fact reviewers.
Both Twitter and Facebook plan to transfer official government accounts to Biden and his team on the inauguration day. These include @POTUS and @WhiteHouse on Twitter, as well as the White House and other Facebook and Instagram accounts.
CAN YOU DECIDE TO RECORD ON PLATFORMS?
It will be easier to be considered a private citizen again, but still unlikely. In particular, all fact-checking and tags disputing your claims don’t count on it when you’re on Facebook or Twitter. In order to face consequences such as suspension or permanent removal, you must violate company rules. This could include, for example, targeted harassment or racist threats. Disclosure of incorrect information does not matter unless specifically related to COVID-19 or the voting process.