SAN FRANCISCO: Twitter on Tuesday (May 26) for the first time prompted readers to check the facts in tweets sent by US President Donald Trump, warning readers his claims about mail-in ballots were false and had been debunked by fact-checkers.
The blue exclamation mark notification prompted readers to "get the facts about mail-in ballots" and directed them to a page with news articles and information from fact-checkers about the claims.
"Trump makes unsubstantiated claim that mail-in ballots will lead to voter fraud," a headline at the top of the page said.
The move drew a furious response from Trump, who used the platform to accuse Twitter of "interfering in the 2020 Presidential Election".
"Twitter is completely stifling FREE SPEECH, and I, as President, will not allow it to happen!" he tweeted.
Trump had claimed in tweets earlier in the day that mail-in ballots would be "substantially fraudulent" and result in a "rigged election". He also singled out the governor of California over the issue, although the state is not the only one to use mail-in ballots.
Twitter confirmed this was the first time it had applied a label to a tweet by the president under its new "misleading information" policy, introduced earlier in the month.
"In serving the public conversation, our goal is to make it easy to find credible information on Twitter and to limit the spread of potentially harmful and misleading content," head of site integrity Yoel Roth and global public policy director Nick Pickles said when the change was announced.
Twitter's decision to fact-check Trump comes as the president, already facing US economic calamity and 100,000 deaths from COVID-19 as well as sinking re-election polls, received a storm of backlash over his pushing of a conspiracy theory about MSNBC host Joe Scarborough.
The story claims that Scarborough killed a woman he was having an affair with in 2001, when he was a Republican congressman and she was one of his staffers.
Trump pushed the story over the weekend. On Tuesday, he was at it again, tweeting: "The opening of a Cold Case against Psycho Joe Scarborough".
"So many unanswered & obvious questions, but I won't bring them up now! Law enforcement eventually will?" he wrote.
The deceased woman, Lori Klausutis, was found by investigators to have died after hitting her head during a fall in Scarborough's office, triggered by an abnormal heart rhythm.
Scarborough went on to become a prominent media personality, strongly critical of Trump, and is co-host of the Morning Joe show on MSNBC with his wife Mika Brzezinski, whom Trump calls "low IQ. Crazy Mika."
Klausutis' widower, Timothy Klausutis, wrote to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, pleading with him to delete Trump's "vicious lie".
"I'm asking you to intervene in this instance because the President of the United States has taken something that does not belong to him - the memory of my dead wife and perverted it for perceived political gain," he wrote in a letter published by The New York Times.
When asked about the letter, Trump told reporters at the White House: "I'm sure ultimately they want to get to the bottom of it and it's a very serious situation."
He added: "As you know, there is no statute of limitations."
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said during a CNN interview on Tuesday that Twitter and other social media platforms should "say it's not true" when misleading statements are broadcast.
Asked about the fallout from the Scarborough tweets, a Twitter spokesman said: "We are deeply sorry about the pain these statements, and the attention they are drawing, are causing the family."
"We've been working to expand existing product features and policies so we can more effectively address things like this going forward, and we hope to have those changes in place shortly."