Twitter will block retweets and “likes” of misleading content from candidates ahead of the US presidential election, in a move that will further escalate tension between the company and President Donald Trump.
The social media group has introduced new measures in recent months to tackle the deluge of false information that has proliferated on its platform — for example adding cautionary labels below tweets that seek to manipulate or undermine trust in the election, or spread falsities about coronavirus.
On Friday, Twitter said it was updating its policies to add “additional warnings to misleading tweets” from US political figures including candidates and campaigns, and also US accounts with more than 100,000 followers and those that garner significant engagement.
Users will have to click through a warning that covers the misleading tweet in order to see it, and will no longer be able to like, retweet it or reply to it, Twitter said. “These Tweets won’t be algorithmically recommended by Twitter,” it added, though users will be able to share the tweet if they add their own comment to it.
The platform also explicitly spelt out that it would remove tweets “meant to incite interference with the election process or with the implementation of election results, such as through violent action” — expanding on recent policies — and will add labels to premature claims of victory on its platform.
The changes could set the social media platform on a collision course with Mr Trump, an avid Twitter user who has already lambasted it for adding misinformation labels to some of his tweets and temporarily suspending his campaign’s page.
Twitter has increasingly squared up to Mr Trump as he has tried to cast doubt on the validity of the mail-in voting system, spread confusion about the voting process, called for supporters to monitor polling stations, and suggested he would not honour the result.
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
Friday’s move comes just weeks before Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey and Facebook head Mark Zuckerberg are due to testify before the Senate commerce committee as part of a review of Section 230, the 1996 law that gives them immunity from being sued over content that they publish.
Mr Trump initiated the review after repeatedly accusing the platform of censorship and anticonservative bias. This week, he tweeted “REPEAL SECTION 230!!!” after Twitter appended a label to a post where he falsely claimed that Covid-19 was less deadly than the flu, and Facebook removed a similar post.
Facebook and Google are also introducing eleventh-hour policies amid pressure to better police their platforms in the wake of interference in the 2016 US election.
Twitter added that it was rolling out a new prompt to all users globally recommending they add their own commentary when sharing someone else’s tweet, rather than simply retweeting it, in order to encourage users to engage with content.
In the countdown to the 2020 election, stay on top of the big campaign issues with our newsletter on US power and politics with columnists Rana Foroohar and Edward Luce. Sign up here
Get alerts on Digital politics when a new story is published