Twitter Learns Humility on Internet Censorship: 'We Are Not the Arbiters of Truth'

(AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

In the wake of notorious phrases such as "alternative facts" and "fake news," some tech companies and media outlets have decided to crack down on what they consider propaganda. In doing so, they have arguably peddled their own propaganda from a different angle. In the wake of this narrative maelstrom, Twitter has taken a remarkable stand for a virtue that seems vanishingly rare today: humility.

โ€œWe are not the arbiters of truth,โ€ Nick Pickles, Twitter's head of public policy for Britain, admitted during testimony before British lawmakers in Washington, D.C. โ€œWe are not going to remove content based on the fact this is untrue. The one strength that Twitter has is it's a hive of journalists, of citizens, of activists correcting the record, correcting information.โ€

Pickles make these remarks at an event featuring tech giants Twitter, Facebook, and Google at George Washington University at a public committee hearing for Britain's House of Commons, the first ever such hearing outside the United Kingdom, The Washington Post reported.

Conservative Member of Parliament Simon Hart reportedly asked Pickles about information that is "provably, demonstrably untrue." Pickles responded that tweets containing false information might be removed if they also violate rules against hate speech, but that the company will not remove tweets based solely on "the truthfulness of a piece of information."

โ€œI don't think technology companies should be deciding during an election what is true and what is not true, which is what you're asking us to do,โ€ Pickles added. โ€œI think that's a very important principle.โ€

Predictably, the Post's Callum Borchers took a very negative angle on this news. Reminding readers that "President Trump has helped stretch the definition of fake news beyond recognition," Borchers drew the conclusion, "You can lie on Twitter."

Unfortunately for Borchers, it isn't quite that simple. Both The Washington Post and The New York Times have taken up the standard of "truth" in recent years โ€” "Democracy Dies in Darkness" and the Times' "Truth has a voice" campaign โ€” but while facts often are independently verifiable, all messages come from a limited perspective.

The result? One man's "truth" is another man's "fake news." Outlets like CNN, the Times, and the Post color their reporting of the facts with a certain degree of liberal bias โ€” that doesn't mean the facts they're reporting aren't true, but it does mean that the lesson they draw from those facts might be suspect. Here at PJ Media, we attempt to correct that record.

(There has been a great deal to correct: The New York Times spread a lie about Romans 1, misidentified the Syrian city of Aleppo, said Christian opposition to abortion was "new;" The Washington Post said a Canaanite study disproved the Bible when it very much did not; and of course there were the "Fake News Awards.")

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