News & Politics

Zuckerberg Casts Shade on Twitter's Trump Fact-Check: 'Facebook Shouldn't be the Arbiter of Truth'

Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg testifies before the House Financial Services Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019, to discuss his plans for the new cryptocurrency Libra. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

On Wednesday, Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg subtly criticized Twitter’s unprecedented decision to issue a “fact-check” on President Donald Trump’s tweets about a lawsuit against Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-Calif.)’s coronavirus executive order to institute vote by mail. Zuckerberg suggested that Twitter was making itself an “arbiter of truth” and insisted that Facebook would not pursue such a policy.

“We have a different policy, I think, than Twitter on this. I just believe strongly that Facebook shouldn’t be the arbiter of truth of everything that people say online. I think in general private companies shouldn’t be—or especially these platform companies—shouldn’t be in the position of doing that,” Zuckerberg told Fox News’s Dana Perino.

Fox showed the clip as a teaser for a full interview with Zuckerberg scheduled to air on Thursday.

Trump had decided to comment on the California Republican Party’s lawsuit against Gavin Newsom. Newsom had used the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to unilaterally declare that California would incorporate vote by mail in the 2020 election. According to the California GOP lawsuit, this not only violates the Constitution — which stipulates that legislatures, not governors, make election law — but also violated voters’ rights by opening up the election to fraud and abuse.

The president made a few hyperbolic claims about the lawsuit, but Twitter’s “fact-check” insisted that experts claim “there is no evidence that mail-in ballots are linked to voter fraud.” In doing so, the platform not only ignored the studies and experts the California GOP cited in the lawsuit but also recent news reports.

For instance, the Texas Tribune reported that Dallas officials “sequestered” 700 “suspicious ballots.” The New York Times reported that “votes cast by mail are less likely to be counted, more likely to be compromised & more likely to be contested than those cast in a voting booth, statistics show.” Secretary of State John Merrill (R-Ala.) told CNN that voter fraud very much does exist, and it often involves vote by mail.

Twitter’s “fact-check” inspired conservatives to sleuth out who might be behind it. Reporters like Fox News’ Gregg Re pointed out that Twitter “Head of Site Integrity” Yoel Roth has a history of anti-Trump tirades. While Twitter has insisted that no one person was behind the “fact-check,” Roth’s high position serves as a reminder of how far left most Big Tech employees lean.

If Twitter is going to start issuing “fact-checks” of the president’s tweets on controversial issues, the company should list sources who agree with the president as well as sources who disagree with him. The utter bias in this “fact-check” does suggest that the company sees itself as an “arbiter of truth,” picking the left-leaning sources as reliable while condemning Trump’s message. This attack also raised questions as to whether or not Big Tech platforms should lose their immunity under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

Zuckerberg is smart to reject this path. Big Tech platforms should not be in the “arbiter of truth” business.

Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.

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