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Twitter employee attacked over 'bias' after company fact-checks Trump tweets

Adam Smith

Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey has made a statement that he is “ultimately accountable for [Twitter’s] actions as a company”, following Donald Trump’s apparent intentions to sign an executive order targetting social media sites as well as right-wing supporters of the president attacking one of Twitter’s employees.

“Fact check: there is someone ultimately accountable for our actions as a company, and that’s me. Please leave our employees out of this. We’ll continue to point out incorrect or disputed information about elections globally. And we will admit to and own any mistakes we make.” Dorsey tweeted.

“This does not make us an ‘arbiter of truth.’ Our intention is to connect the dots of conflicting statements and show the information in dispute so people can judge for themselves. More transparency from us is critical so folks can clearly see the why behind our actions” he continued.

The employee in question is Yoel Roth, the social media site’s “head of site integrity”. According to Roth’s LinkedIn page, Roth’s work involves “developing and enforcing Twitter’s rules on platform manipulation, spam, and API access”.

Roth has become a target for right-wing voices, claiming that Roth’s political views are responsible for the company deciding to fact-check the president.

President Trump tweeted that postal voting is “fraudulent” and predicting that “mail boxes will be robbed,” a claim that is not true. While voter fraud is slightly more common via postal voting than in person, the level of voter fraud in America is very low with little over a thousand cases reported.

Twitter added a blue link under the tweets, which reads “Get the facts about mail-in ballots,” and takes users to fact-checking articles from newsrooms and journalists debunking Trump’s claims.

Mr Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr, asked whether Twitter could “possibly find someone more biased?”

RT if you don’t think @twitter is even trying to hide their bias anymore!

This joker is in charge of “Site Integrity?” Could you possibly find someone more biased?

He definitely wouldn’t try to suppress anything that isn’t leftist propaganda/narrative, right??? https://t.co/pfEZtTZxRj

— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr)
May 27, 2020

Mr Trump's other son, Eric Trump, quote-tweeted the same tweet as his brother, commenting that it "unbelievable."

Roth was also the subject of a segment on “Fox & Friends”, a weekday morning show on Fox News which has a close relationship with Mr Trump who has called into the show previously.

On Fox & Friends, Kellyanne Conway appears to direct online harassment at Twitter's head of site integrity, Yoel Roth: "Somebody in San Francisco will wake him up and tell him he's about to get a lot more followers." pic.twitter.com/H9ceUu6Ezv

— Bobby Lewis (@revrrlewis)
May 27, 2020

Roth’s tweets are dated between 2016 and 2017. They include include comparisons between Kellyanne Conway, a counselor to the president, and the Nazi Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels, as well as calling Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell “a personality-free bag of farts“.

Roth’s position in Twitter does not in fact seem related to the fact-check. A Twitter spokesperson said: "No one person at Twitter is responsible for our policies or enforcement actions, and it's unfortunate to see individual employees targeted for company decisions.​"

Mr Trump has since threatened an executive order that would “strongly regulate” or “close down” platforms. The order is expected to be signed 28 May.

It has been suggested that Mr Trump could remove Twitter’s protection under Section 230, an American regulation which protects social media sites from the legal repercussions of particular content on their platforms, in contrast to news sites which legally have editorial control over what is published.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg criticised Twitter for being an “arbiter of truth” following the site’s decision to fact-check the president. “I just believe strongly that Facebook shouldn't be the arbiter of truth of everything that people say online. In general, private companies probably shouldn't be, especially these platform companies, shouldn't be in the position of doing that,” Zuckerberg said.

The message Mr Trump posted on Twitter about voter fraud was also posted on his Facebook page. Facebook’s has a policy of removing content which misrepresents ways of voting, but the company said it would not take action.