The head of Twitter’s fact-checking team has previously tweeted that the Trump administration are Nazis, compared adviser Kellyanne Conway to Joseph Goebbels and said fly over states are racist.
Yoel Roth, whose official title at Twitter is head of Site Integrity, faced backlash on Wednesday after his history of anti-Trump tweets emerged less than 24 hours after the social media giant put a fact-checking warning on two of the president’s tweets.
Twitter prompted readers to check the facts in Trump’s tweets after the president on Tuesday suggested that California’s mail-in balloting initiative would lead to substantial voter fraud in the November general election.
The social media giant said Trump’s claims about mail-in ballots being ‘substantially fraudulent’ were found to unsubstantiated by fact-checkers at CNN, the Washington Post and other media outlets.
It is the first time Twitter has taken such action against Trump with the company previously resisting calls to censure the president.
Following the move, previous tweets from Roth – who is in charge of the team that investigates misinformation at Twitter – resurfaced, including one in which he suggest the Trump administration were Nazis.
Prior tweets from Yoel Roth, whose official title at Twitter is head of Site Integrity, emerged after the social media giant put a fact-checking warning on Trump’s posts for the first time on Tuesday
In a January 2017 tweet, Roth referred to the Trump administration as ‘actual Nazis in the White House’ and tweeted in November 2016 that fly over states were racist.
He also compared Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway to Nazi Joseph Goebbels saying: ”Today on Meet The Press, we’re speaking with Joseph Goebbels about the first 100 days…’ – What I hear whenever Kellyanne is on a news show.’
The majority of Roth’s tweets criticizing Trump and his administration were posted around 2017.
Roth started working at Twitter in 2015 as a product trust partner, according to his LinkedIn profile.
He has been in his current role as head of site integrity for almost two years.
Conway, who is a counselor to Trump, lashed out at Roth in an interview with Fox & Friends on Wednesday and went as far as giving out his Twitter handle on live television.
‘This guy is constantly attacking Trump voters, Trump, Mitch McConnell, you name it. He’s the head of integrity at Twitter,’ Conway said.
‘It’s horrible the way he looks at people who should otherwise have a free and clear platform on Twitter.’
Trump has long accused Twitter of being biased and on Wednesday threatened to close down social media platforms as a result of the warning put on his tweets.
‘Republicans feel that Social Media Platforms totally silence conservatives voices. We will strongly regulate, or close them down, before we can ever allow this to happen,’ he tweeted on Wednesday.
Roth referred to the Trump administration as ‘actual Nazis in the White House’ in a January 2017 tweet
Roth tweeted in November 2016 that fly over states were racist
He also compared Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway to Nazi Joseph Goebbels in a 2017 tweet
TRUMP TARGETED: A BREAKDOWN OF TWITTER’S FACE-CHECKING
Why were Trump’s tweets targeted:
Twitter said the fact-checking label on Trump’s tweets was an extension of its new ‘misleading information’ policy, introduced earlier this month to combat misinformation about COVID-19.
It said at the time that it would later extend the COVID-19 policy to other types of disputed or misleading information.
While Trump’s tweets are not in violation of Twitter rules because it doesn’t directly try to dissuade people from voting — the company says it does, however, contain misleading information about the voting process, specifically mail-in ballots.
What does the warning label mean?
Twitter says the blue exclamation marks underneath the tweets aims to provide more context for users on posts that are found to be misleading.
It links to a page curated by Twitter that includes additional information from various sources on the claims in the tweet.
In Trump’s case, the claims were found to unsubstantiated by fact-checkers at CNN, the Washington Post and other media outlets.
It also provides links to media outlets debunking Trump’s claims.
How does Twitter decide what is unsubstantiated?
Twitter earlier this month its team uses internal systems to monitor content and relies on partners to identify content that ‘is likely to result in offline harm’.
‘This process is ongoing and we’ll work to make sure these and other labels and warnings show up across Twitter,’ the company said.
It followed on from previous tweets late Tuesday in which he also lashed out at the company, accusing Twitter of interfering in the 2020 presidential election.
‘Twitter is completely stifling FREE SPEECH, and I, as President, will not allow it to happen!’ he said.
Trump, who has more than 80 million Twitter followers, had claimed in tweets earlier in the day that mail-in ballots would be ‘substantially fraudulent’ and result in a ‘rigged election.’
He also singled out the governor of California over the issue, although the state is not the only one to use mail-in ballots.
Hours later, Twitter posted a blue exclamation mark alert underneath two of those tweets, prompting readers to ‘get the facts about mail-in ballots’ and directing them to a page with information aggregated by Twitter staffers about the claims.
A headline at the top of the page stated ‘Trump makes unsubstantiated claim that mail-in ballots will lead to voter fraud’ and was followed by a ‘what you need to know’ section addressing three specific claims made in the tweets.
The claims were found to unsubstantiated by fact-checkers at CNN, the Washington Post and other media outlets, according to Twitter.
The information aggregated by Twitter included experts pointing out that mail-in voting is rarely linked to fraud and that mail-in ballots are used in states other than California. It also provided links to media outlets debunking Trump’s claims.
It is not yet clear who is in charge of aggregating the information included on the Twitter page.
In a statement, Twitter said that Trump’s tweets about mail-in voting did not violate the company’s rules because they didn’t discourage people from voting.
But Trump’s vote-by-mail tweets contained ‘potentially misleading information about voting processes and have been labeled to provide additional context around mail-in ballots’.
Twitter said the application of a fact-checking label to Trump’s tweets was an extension of its new ‘misleading information’ policy, introduced earlier this month to combat misinformation about the coronavirus.
It said at the time that it would later extend the COVID-19 policy to other types of disputed or misleading information.
Twitter prompted readers to check the facts in Trump’s tweets after the president on Tuesday suggested that California’s mail-in balloting initiative would lead to substantial voter fraud in the November general election. The claims were found to unsubstantiated by fact-checkers at CNN, the Washington Post and other media outlets, according to Twitter
Twitter posted a blue exclamation mark alert underneath two of those tweets, prompting readers to ‘get the facts about mail-in ballots’ and directing them to a page with information aggregated by Twitter staffers about the claims
Twitter so far has used its policies sparingly against major political figures but did delete tweets by the presidents of Brazil and Venezuela which violated its coronavirus rules.
Trump has never previously faced Twitter sanctions on his account.
Trump posted the same text about mail-in ballots on his official Facebook page, where the post picked up 170,000 reactions and was shared 17,000 times.
Facebook’s policy is to remove content that misrepresents methods of voting or voter registration, but in this case it left the post untouched.
‘We believe that people should be able to have a robust debate about the electoral process, which is why we have crafted our policies to focus on misrepresentations that would interfere with the vote,’ a Facebook spokesman said.
Twitter has previously come under fire for allowing Trump to frequently spread misinformation and using his account to personally attack private citizens and public figures, which are all forbidden under the company’s official rules.
A Twitter spokesman said Trump’s mail-in ballot tweets were related to election integrity and therefore subject to different treatment under its policies.
The company’s alert on Trump’s mail-in ballot tweets came hours after it refused to delete the president’s tweets implying that ‘Morning Joe’ host Joe Scarborough murdered a Congressional aide who worked for him in 2001.
Donald Trump warned Wednesday morning that his administration will begin regulating and shutting down social media sites, claiming tech giants try to ‘totally silence conservative voices’. The claim came after Twitter, one of his favorite mediums for communicating with the American people, labeled two of his tweets about mail-in ballots as ‘misleading’
President Donald Trump tweeted his accusations on Tuesday night that the social media site was interfering in the 2020 presidential election by fact-checking his tweets
TWITTER’S TRUMP ‘FACT CHECK’: THE UNANSWERED QUESTIONS
Twitter labeled two linked Trump’s tweets as ‘misleading’ Tuesday, their first ever action against the president on the platform.
They added a link to a series of articles from outlets including CNN and the Washington Post – but put their own summary at the top of the page with Twitter’s bullet-point version of why they labeled the tweet misleading.
But the company left a series of unanswered questions about the process of fact-checking including:
- Why were these tweets selected?
- Who in Twitter decided they were ‘misleading’?
- Are all of Trump’s tweets checked for being misleading?
- How can the ballot claims be labeled misleading while a conspiracy theory that Joe Scarborough murdered a women who died of natural causes while he was hundreds of miles away does not?
- Is there a complaints process or did Twitter make the decision to label the tweets itself?
- If it did it itself, who actually decided?
- How does someone who has been labeled misleading appeal?
- Twitter claims simply to offer a platform to its users, and not to be a ‘publisher’ like a traditional newspaper or broadcaster. But they summary of its factcheck is an editorial product – so who wrote the claims at the top of the fact-checking page and how can they be held accountable?
- Are people subject to labeling for being ‘misleading’ given advance notice to allow them to delete their tweets?
- Will Trump’s tweets about being factchecked also be factchecked?
The widower of the woman who died, Lori Klausutis, sent a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey last week begging for Trump’s tweets about this conspiracy theory to be deleted.
‘My request is simple: Please delete these tweets,’ Timothy J. Klausutis wrote last week.
While Twitter wouldn’t budge on deleting Trump’s tweets, the site had promised to be more proactive about labeling factually inaccurate content.
Asked about the Scarborough tweets, a Twitter spokeswoman said the company was expanding its products and policies to address such tweets more effectively in the future, without elaborating.
The body of Lori Kaye Klausutis, 28, was found in Scarborough’s Florida congressional office on July 20, 2001.
Trump has repeatedly tried to implicate Scarborough, now a fierce Trump critic, in the death even though Scarborough was in Washington, not Florida, at the time.
Medical officials ruled that the aide, who had a heart condition and told friends hours earlier that she wasn’t feeling well, had fainted and hit her head and foul play was not suspected.
Klausutis wrote in his letter to Twitter that he has struggled to move on with his life due to the ongoing ‘bile and misinformation’ spread about his wife on the platform, most recently by Trump.
His wife continues to be the subject of conspiracy theories 20 years after her death.
Klausutis called his wife’s death ‘the single most painful thing that I have ever had to deal with’ and said he feels a marital obligation to protect her memory amid ‘a constant barrage of falsehoods, half-truths, innuendo and conspiracy theories since the day she died.’
He said Trump’s tweets violate Twitter’s community rules and terms of service, adding: ’An ordinary user like me would be banished.’
At Tuesday’s White House briefing, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany repeatedly refused to say why Trump was pressing the unfounded allegations or whether he would stop tweeting about them.
Instead, she focused on remarks that Scarborough made about the case that she said were inappropriate and flippant.
Dorsey did not reply directly to Klausutis’ letter and has not taken any action on the president’s tweets.
In a statement, Twitter said it was ‘deeply sorry about the pain these statements, and the attention they are drawing, are causing the family’.
Scarborough has also urged the president to stop his baseless attacks.
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