Twitter admits the facts

Tomorrow's Business

Yesterday Twitter did a somewhat extraordinary thing – it started tagging Donald Trump tweets with a fact-check warning.

The warning label suggested that Trump’s claims might be, erm, unreliable and gave a link to a page written by “fact-checkers”.

The President reacted in predictable fashion, threatening to “close down” social media and claiming that Twitter is “stifling free speech”.

This is an interesting development because it is a departure for big social media, which largely insists it is not, and cannot, be responsible for the content on its platforms.

In the past whenever I wrote anything unflattering about Google and its failure to police itself, some corporate affairs heavy would come on the phone, or visit the office to put me straight.

His argument was straightforward (if absurd) – “We Are Not The Publisher” he would say, while jumping up and down in fury.

Twitter’s move on Trump rather gives the game away that they realise they are the publisher and as such are free to make editorial decisions about what appears.

Newspapers will welcome this development, since it levels the playing field a bit.

If a bunch of anti-semitic comments appeared beneath a story on a newspaper website, the paper would take them down, apologise and make a donation to a charity.

Now Twitter has let the cat out of the bag, shouldn’t we expect it to do the same?

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