Twitter said Thursday it will label or remove posts that prematurely declare victory in the upcoming U.S. election, making it the latest social media company to set out a plan for a prolonged vote count and a president who appears primed to dispute results if he does not win.
The social network’s rules currently prohibit a narrower set of election-related tweets, including posts that stoke confusion about how to vote and other forms of voter suppression. And the platform in recent months has flagged some tweets by President Donald Trump and his allies that contained misleading information about mail-in voting.
But under its new guidelines, set to take effect next Thursday, Twitter will slap warning labels or take down posts “claiming victory before election results have been certified” or seeking to “prevent a peaceful transfer of power,” the company said in a blog post. And Twitter will take the same action against “disputed claims” about the electoral process, including “unverified information about election rigging, ballot tampering, vote tallying, or certification of election results.”
Twitter spokesperson Trenton Kennedy said the rules change is meant to both expand the range of misleading election-related tweets the company will act on and make more explicit what kind of posts will trigger action from the company.
The president has stoked fears he will decline to concede an election defeat or claim early victory by casting doubt on the legitimacy of the voting process.
Trump tweeted in July that the 2020 election “will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history” due to the prevalence of mail-in voting amid the Covid-19 pandemic, a trend that may also delay the official results beyond Election Night. Independent fact-checkers say claims of widespread voter fraud through vote by mail are baseless.
The president has also suggested a losing result may be invalid, telling supporters in August, “The only way they can take this election away from us is if this is a rigged election.”
Twitter’s move follows an announcement by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg last week that the company will add labels to posts from candidates that try to “declare victory before the results are in.”
Until now, Twitter has slapped labels on some of the president’s posts that included misleading claims about mail-in voting or sought to cast doubt on the outcome of the race, but not others, including that July post calling 2020 “the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history.” That’s prompted confusion and criticism over the company’s policies on the matter.
Twitter said Thursday it is also expanding this effort so that similar posts could be labeled or removed entirely. Twitter did not single out Trump or any other candidate in its announcement. But Kennedy said the new rules will apply globally to both everyday users as well as political candidates and elected officials.
POLITICO first reported on Twitter’s plans to expand its rules against mail-in voting misinformation in August.
The Twitter spokesperson said the company will determine whether posts get labeled or taken down based on the severity of the falsehood and its potential to cause harm. Posts with general mischaracterizations and a lesser chance of causing harm are likely to be labeled, while tweets with specific falsehoods and a greater likelihood to cause harm are likely to be removed, Kennedy said.
Kennedy said the specific language of the labels will be determined on a case-by-case basis.
Some critics on the left have called on Twitter to outright remove misleading and false posts by Trump and others about the election, rather than labeling them. Trump and his Republican allies have skewered Twitter for adding labels to their tweets, accusing the company of bias against conservatives, which it denies.