President Donald Trump was not pleased about Twitter’s new effort at fact-checking his posts, and threatened to shut down social media platforms.
Is fact-checking a threat to free speech? President Donald Trump seems to think so.
The war of words began after Twitter added blue notifications to two of Trump’s tweets. Both tweets included what Twitter called unsubstantiated claims about widespread mail-in voting fraud.
One of those tweets began, “There is NO WAY (ZERO) that Mail-In Ballots will be anything less than substantially fraudulent.” Trump raised alarms about mailboxes being robbed, ballots being forged and fraudulently signed.
When you embed the tweet from Twitter, just as I did above, you don’t see what Twitter did.
But when you view the tweet on their platform, you notice a blue notification below the tweet. See for yourself in a screengrab:
Notice the “Get the facts about mail-in ballots” line? Twitter added that as a form of fact-checking Trump’s claims about voter fraud from mail-in ballots.
When you click the link, you get more information on Trump’s alleged unsubstantiated claims. Twitter points out that the claims are unsubstantiated, “according to CNN, The Washington Post and others.”
Under a section with the subheading, “What you need to know,” it then gives examples of coverage about statements Trump made on the subject.
That launched Trump on a tirade, during which he threatened that Republicans will try to close down social media platforms.
“Republicans feel that Social Media Platforms totally silence conservative voices,” he tweeted. “We will strongly regulate, or close them down, before we can ever allow this to happen.”
He accused Twitter of interfering in the 2020 presidential election.
Fact-checking doesn’t stifle free speech.
The most obvious evidence of this is the fact that Trump is still posting his tirades as he always has. We don’t have any evidence that Twitter removed any of his tweets. If they had, he’d have surely raised that complaint.
He’s still expressing his views. His opinions. And, perhaps, his own facts.
But as people on both sides of the political spectrum point out only when it serves their own interests, everyone is entitled to his opinion, not not his own facts.
You can mostly say anything you want, within reason, under the protection of Free Speech.
But saying it doesn’t make it true.
Even if you’re the president of the United States.
A Harvard law professor said the president “has no case” against Twitter and called the “stifling free speech” claim “totally absurd and legally illiterate.”
The same people who raise angry fists at social media because they feel Trump isn’t being treated fairly don’t object when a Democratic counterpart is fact-checked.
That’s how politics works. It’s always open season on those of the other party. But when someone dares question someone in your camp, it’s a vast conspiracy.
Fact-checking be damned.
Just as important as freedom of speech is freedom of the press. One of the press’s main functions is fact-checking, to hold those in power accountable.
Those in power often don’t like that.
And that, of course, is understandable.
But we have too many people who are too quick to dismiss anything they disagree with as “fake” only because it’s something they don’t want to hear. If it goes against their deeply-held notions, it must be false.
It doesn’t work that way in the real world. But it does in their minds.
That’s a real shame.
Still, they can continue venting their opinions, exercising their free speech.
And if they spew false or misleading information, a healthy republic should always hope they’re called on it.