Twitter and Facebook both labeled a post President Donald Trump shared at the end of Election Day in which he baselessly said the election was being “stolen” from him. Twitter took more aggressive action by warning users the post is “potentially misleading” and slowing its reach; Facebook posted a label that said ballots could take days or weeks to count.
In fact, it’s standard process in the United States for votes to be counted well after election night, and that was even more anticipated this year, given the record volume of mail-in ballots due to people staying at home during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Democrats worried about this very scenario — that Trump would declare a premature victory via social media — for months leading up to the election, pressing social media companies for more details on how they would respond. Trump’s posts came ahead of a speech he’s expected to give on broadcast television, in which major networks have said they would fact-check false claims by Trump in near-real time.
Just as Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden was finishing his televised speech, during which he said he thinks he’s “on track” to win the election, Trump posted on his Facebook and Twitter accounts. “We are up BIG, but they are trying to STEAL the Election,” he wrote. “We will never let them do it. Votes cannot be cast after the Poles are closed!”
It appears that a few minutes after Trump’s original post, his account deleted and reposted the tweet after fixing a spelling error; his first tweet had spelled “polls” as “Poles.”
Regardless, Twitter labeled the spell-checked version of Trump’s tweet with a warning label for violating its policies against civic integrity. Twitter’s label covered Trump’s words, so you can only see the actual post if you click on a note that says the content in the tweet is “disputed” and “might be misleading about an election or other civic process.” Twitter also seemingly prevented users from replying to, liking, or sharing the tweet without comment.
Shortly after Twitter moderated Trump’s post, Facebook also labeled Trump’s identical post on the platform with a less-prominent warning label stating that “final results may be different from initial vote counts, as ballot counting will continue for days or weeks,” and included a link to voting information. Unlike Twitter, Facebook has not limited people’s ability to reply to or share the post.
Once again, it seems that Twitter took the lead over Facebook in more decisively moderating Trump’s posts. But as Trump continues to comment on the results of an incomplete election in which key battleground states are expected to spend the next few days or more finalizing their counts, both companies will likely face continued instances of unproven claims about the outcome.