The phrase was popularised by him and aimed at his media critics  - but now President Trump has himself been labelled 'fake news', in a first from the social media giant Twitter. The President has hit back claiming that Twitter is politically biased, interfering with the 2020 election and stifling freedom of speech.  

The furore relates to postal ballots. The California Governor announced an effort to expand mail-in voting in California during the COVID-19 pandemic. The President's response was "There is NO WAY (ZERO!) that Mail-In Ballots will be anything less than substantially fraudulent. Mail boxes will be robbed, ballots will be forged & even illegally printed out & fraudulently signed. The Governor of California is sending Ballots to millions of people, anyone.....".

Twitter labelled the Tweets (fairly discreetly) with the label '! Get the facts about mail-in ballots', with a link to a content page that stated that the Tweets contained "potentially misleading information about voting processes and have been labelled to provide additional content around mail-in ballots" and provided media content with alternative views. 

According to reports, a Twitter spokesperson confirmed that the decision was in line with Twitter's new Covid-19 policy which was released earlier this month in an effort to tackle Covid-19 disinformation. Notably, Twitter did not invoke its policy on misleading statements by political figures - which, although the Tweets still would not have been removed, would have resulted in the Tweets being placed behind a notice. Followers would have to click-through to see the Tweets and the ability to share and Twitter's own recommendation algorithms would be curtailed. 

Underlying the spat we see yet again the tension between core principles of freedom of speech, the value of public scrutiny of political statements (even if misleading) and the risks of disinformation. Twitter has sought to achieve a balance but ultimately this is an area ripe for regulation and standardisation. 

For more information visit our Digital Content and Reputation Risk Hub (here) and view our Online Harms client series (here).