Behind the Scenes of Twitter Team’s Controversial Decision to Fact-Check Trump: We Knew ‘All Hell Would Break Loose’
Twitter’s vice president of global communications, Brandon Borrman, detailed the platform’s decision to apply a fact-checking warning label to two tweets of President Donald Trump earlier this week. Borrman told OneZero, a publication on Medium, that Twitter expected a firestorm to follow its move
“The company needed to do what’s right,” Borrman said. “And we knew from a comms perspective that all hell would break loose.”
On Tuesday morning, Trump continued to push, via Twitter, his baseless claims that mail-in voting would lead to widespread fraud, and ultimately a “rigged” election.
….living in the state, no matter who they are or how they got there, will get one. That will be followed up with professionals telling all of these people, many of whom have never even thought of voting before, how, and for whom, to vote. This will be a Rigged Election. No way!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 26, 2020
A day later, Twitter added a label and button under both of tweets with the phrase, “get the facts about mail-in voting” where the separate page calls Trump’s claims “unsubstantiated.” In the page formatted like a Twitter event, the platform cites reporting from The Washington Post, CNN, and other media organizations to debunk the President.
The tweet was flagged by a third-party nonprofit that handles the site’s special policy for fact-checking tweets that may interfere with the democratic processes, according to Borrman. The nonprofit, which Borrman refused to name, found it didn’t violate Twitter’s policy to interfere with an election, but decided on recommending a warning label because of a clause of the terms that stated, “We will continue to introduce new labels to provide context around different types of unverified claims and rumors as needed.”
In response, Trump lashed out at the platform, saying that Twitter is “completely stifling FREE SPEECH.” Borrman said he and the company had gamed out Trump’s possible responses and were not surprised when Trump blasted them and called for changes to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
On Thursday, Trump signed an executive order to crack down on social media companies and said: “As president, I’ll not allow the American people to be bullied by these giant corporations.”
He has also called out several individual Twitter employees on his account. In response, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey told Trump to blame him, not anybody else.
Fact check: there is someone ultimately accountable for our actions as a company, and that’s me. Please leave our employees out of this. We’ll continue to point out incorrect or disputed information about elections globally. And we will admit to and own any mistakes we make.
— jack (@jack) May 28, 2020
Have a tip we should know? firstname.lastname@example.org