The new rules could put Twitter and its chief executive Jack Dorsey on a collision course with Donald Trump © AFP via Getty Images

Twitter is toughening up its policies to combat misinformation that causes confusion and undermines trust in elections ahead of the US presidential vote later this year, in a move that could set the social media platform on a collision course with Donald Trump. 

The social media platform said on Thursday that it was updating its content moderation rules to ban “false or misleading information that causes confusion” about election rules, as well as “unverified information about election rigging, ballot tampering, vote tallying or certification of election results”. 

Twitter also introduced a new policy designed to combat “misleading claims” about election results that could “lead to interference with the implementation of the results of the process”, citing instances where a user might prematurely claim victory or incite “unlawful conduct to prevent a peaceful transfer of power”. 

The company will add fact check warnings to posts that breach its rules, or remove them altogether, it said.

“Big Tech is not the arbiter of truth or the decider of elections,” said Samantha Zager, deputy press secretary for the Trump campaign. “Unless their ‘rules’ are applied equally to both conservative and liberal accounts, this is just the latest example of Silicon Valley’s political activism in favour of their preferred candidate, Joe Biden.”

The changes, which will be implemented from next Thursday, come at a moment of escalating tensions between Mr Trump and Twitter, which has already drawn the ire of the US president for adding cautionary labels to some of his posts and temporarily suspending his campaign account.

Since it first took action on a Trump tweet in May, the president and his campaign have repeatedly accused the platform of censorship and anticonservative bias. 

Mr Trump has increasingly tried to cast doubt on the validity of the mail-in voting system, at a time when a big rise in mail-in ballots is expected due to fears over the coronavirus pandemic and possible future lockdowns.

A large increase in postal voting could delay the count of the ballots, fuelling concerns that candidates could claim victory on social media before the results are formally verified. 

Last week both Facebook and Twitter added cautionary labels to posts by Mr Trump that some interpreted as the president recommending US citizens vote twice, which is illegal. 

“We will not permit our service to be abused around civic processes, most importantly elections,” Twitter said on Thursday. “Any attempt to do so — both foreign and domestic — will be met with strict enforcement of our rules, which are applied equally and judiciously for everyone.” 

Last week Facebook sought to further crack down on election misinformation and voter suppression, pledging to add a cautionary label to posts in which campaigns or candidates prematurely claim victory and to block new political adverts a week before the November 3 vote.

Additional reporting by Courtney Weaver

Trump vs Biden: who is leading the 2020 election polls?

Use the FT’s interactive calculator to see which states matter most in winning the presidency

Get alerts on Social Media when a new story is published

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2020. All rights reserved.
Reuse this content (opens in new window)

Follow the topics in this article