Social media companies are finally beginning to take action on posts from world leaders that violate their policies, after years of letting them mostly say whatever they wanted unfiltered to millions of people, Axios' Sara Fischer reports.
Why it matters: Mounting pressure to stop harmful content from spreading amid the pandemic, widespread protests and a looming U.S. election has spurred some companies to finally do something about misinformation and abusive content from government officials.
Driving the news: Snapchat said Wednesday that it will no longer promote President Trump’s account on its “Discover” page of curated content, after Trump tweeted comments that some said glorified violence amid racial justice protests.
State of play: The move comes after Twitter began taking increased action on tweets from world leaders and policymakers last week.
- Last Thursday, Twitter added a fact-check label on a pair of months-old tweets from a Chinese government spokesperson that falsely suggested that the coronavirus originated in the U.S.
- Earlier that week, it fact-checked two of Trump's tweets for the first time, drawing ire from conservatives who alleged that Twitter was censoring the president and their viewpoints. The tweets made unsubstantiated claims about mail-in ballots inviting fraud, and included false information about California’s electoral process.
- Twitter later added a warning label to Trump's tweet calling for the military to start shooting looters at racial protests, which violated Twitter's rules against glorifying violence.
The big picture: Tech companies often create carve-outs for world leaders in their content moderation policies, because they don't want to take down posts that could be of public interest. But those parameters have been tested as world leaders have used that freedom to suit their political needs.
Be smart: Facebook and YouTube have taken some action during the pandemic, but have been much more conservative in their approach, and have mostly shied from policing election or protest misinformation.
- Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said on Friday that he disagreed strongly with the president's words about the protests, but said, "I believe people should be able to see this for themselves," because he appeared to be threatening military action.
- The company did label a Trump post as “partly false” in March, after the president shared a video that the company had already debunked.
When the coronavirus pandemic hit, nearly every platform made clear that they intended to take strong action to police misinformation surrounding that crisis. That set them on a collision course with some national leaders.
- Facebook, YouTube and Twitter removed posts shared by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro for including coronavirus misinformation.
- Facebook removed content from the president of Madagascar, also for violating COVID-19 misinformation policies.
- Twitter at the time removed tweets from Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro that included false information around the coronavirus.
The bottom line: Snapchat's move is another sign that tech platforms are developing a whole spectrum of responses to the problem of what to do when political leaders break the rules.
- It's also a reminder that social media platforms are private companies that are free to set, enforce, and change their own rules as they please.
Sara has more here.