Twitter took more than an hour to flag a highly misleading video shared by Donald Trump, which baselessly pushed claims of ballot fraud and was retweeted more than 70,000 times before the platform took action.
The president, who lost the US election to Joe Biden last week, shared a video of election workers in Los Angeles collecting valid, mail-in ballots that were posted on or before election day from a ballot drop box. The video, which has been shared thousands of times in recent days, falsely suggested something unusual was under way and has been repeatedly debunked. The Los Angeles county registrar confirmed that the ballots were collected on 4 November from a box that was locked at 8pm on election day and were later processed and counted.
All Drop Boxes were closed and locked at 8PM on Election Night and ballots were collected the following day. These are valid ballots that will be processed and counted during the post-election canvass -- like all outstanding vote by mail ballots.— Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk (@LACountyRRCC) November 5, 2020
The narrator of the video is heard questioning why the election results were “called” before the ballots were collected. Media organizations project the winners of election races based on a number of factors including exit polling, early votes and, in California’s case, the fact that it has a longstanding record of electing Democratic presidential candidates. The state, however, still processes and counts all valid ballots.
The tweet from Trump – and Twitter’s failure to flag it – led to outrage and concern. It also prompted renewed calls to have the president’s Twitter account suspended or permanently banned. Twitter has said the president will no longer receive the same treatment under its policies for newsworthy individuals when he is out of office.
“It’s going to be really nice to have a president who isn’t an internet troll trafficking already debunked conspiracy theories,” the spokesman for California’s secretary of state tweeted in response to Trump’s sharing of the video.
An hour after it was posted, the tweet still had not been removed or flagged by Twitter, despite the company’s policies on misinformation. The platform has flagged more than 40 tweets and retweets on Trump’s profile for misinformation in the days since the election. When a tweet is flagged, it cannot be retweeted, limiting the ability of the misinformation to spread.
But as of Wednesday afternoon, Trump’s tweet containing misinformation had been retweeted 71,000 times and favorited more than 183,000 times before it was flagged by Twitter. When contacted for comment, Twitter said it had placed a label on the tweet “to add more context for anyone who might see the Tweet”. It has flagged one other tweet by Trump since flagging the ballot tweet.