Twitter stopped taking action against 2020 election misinformation after Biden’s inauguration
When Twitter banned Donald Trump after the Jan. 6 riots, many rejoiced at finally being rid of relentless misinformation at the hands of the former president. Then, when Twitter then actively enforced its civic integrity policy against further misinformation about the 2020 election, the platform felt a little safer — but apparently that only lasted until two months later, when the platform stopped enforcing the policy against 2020 election lies at all.
Twitter spokesperson Elizabeth Busby recently told CNN that the company has not been enforcing the civic integrity policy in relation to 2020 election lies “since March 2021.” Busby also maintained that this change in policy enforcement has been known since June 2021, as reported in a New York Times article. However, the referenced article only mentions that Twitter had “loosened its enforcement since March,” while Busby’s statement makes clear there has been no enforcement happening at all.
According to Twitter, the civic integrity policy exists to provide guidelines around “directly harmful types of content,” mainly targeting false claims on how to participate in civic processes, intimidation or suppression of civic processes, and false affiliation. In Sept. 2020, Twitter expanded this policy to allow labeling or removal of “false or misleading information intended to undermine public confidence in an election or other civic process.”
In the two months following the Jan. 6 riots, this policy allowed for any mention of election rigging, ballot tampering, or uncertified election results claims to be labeled with a content warning or taken down entirely. It also implemented a clear strike system, where repeat offenders could be punished with varying degrees of account suspension and, eventually, deactivation. By ending enforcement so soon after such calamitous events, Twitter undermined its so-called transparency and strike-based process, sending the message that misinformation only needs to wait patiently before it can be spread to the masses.
Twitter stands by this decision, telling CNN that the policy was only designed for use during an election, and that “the 2020 U.S. election is not only certified, but President Biden has been in office for more than a year.”
While that may now be true, President Biden had only taken office shortly before Twitter’s policy enforcement ended. Halting the policy allowed tweets mentioning a rigged election or fake results to run rampant at a time when the country had just been upended by an attempted insurrection. That’s one reason why Trump’s “Big Lie” about a stolen election in 2020 continues to reverberate around social media.
Today, various high profile politicians continue to commandeer the same ideas that still proliferate on Twitter. Donald Trump, though he remains banned on Twitter, still perpetuates the idea that he unfairly lost the election and maintains that this will affect future elections. Billy Long, Jim Lamon, and Bernie Moreno, all running for Senate seats, mention a rigged 2020 election in political ads that ran just this past week.
While Twitter doesn’t allow such ads on its platform, the lack of enforcement regarding 2020 election results will let discussion of these ads’ messages or prominent political figures’ views run unchecked, further fanning the flames of misinformation ahead of the 2022 midterm elections. By not acknowledging the effects of 2020 election lies beyond the scope of President Biden’s election, Twitter is allowing for further potential harm – and effectively confusing its users on what is and isn’t allowed on the platform at the same time.