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Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Twitter on Monday opted not to take down or flag a tweet from President Trump that baselessly tied mail-in ballots to voter fraud and foreign election interference. On Tuesday, meanwhile, the platform flagged a Trump tweet threatening "serious force" against protesters seeking to set up an "autonomous zone" in Washington for violating its rules on abusive behavior.

The big picture: President Trump continues to test tech platforms' willingness to crack down on abuse and misinformation he spreads on his social media accounts, a dynamic that will likely intensify as the election approaches and he seeks to raise doubts about potentially unfavorable outcomes.

Driving the news: Trump tweeted on Tuesday, "There will never be an 'Autonomous Zone' in Washington, D.C., as long as I’m your President. If they try they will be met with serious force!"

  • The tweet was flagged and replaced with a notice that gave users the option to view the content because Twitter determined "it may be in the public's interest for the Tweet to remain accessible."
  • Users are not permitted to share the tweet.
Screenshot via Twitter

On Monday, Trump railed against mail-in voting in a series of tweets claiming that "millions of mail-in ballots will be printed by foreign countries, and others" and maintaining, "Because of MAIL-IN BALLOTS, 2020 will be the most RIGGED Election in our nations history."

  • It's unclear what inspired Trump's claim about foreign countries printing ballots, and there has never been any link established between mail-in voting and widespread voter fraud (or indeed any record of widespread voter fraud in the U.S. at all).
  • Trump himself has repeatedly voted by mail in the last three years.

Twitter declined to flag the tweets as election-related misinformation, as it had an earlier series of Trump tweets, because Monday's postings didn't level any specific accusations about election officials' processes on handling voting or mail-in ballots, a company spokesperson told Axios.

  • Twitter did create a "Moment" aggregating tweets that debunked Trump's latest claims.

Trump's posts also appeared without being flagged on Facebook, which has taken a broadly more permissive approach than Twitter to Trump's inflammatory messages.

Our thought bubble: Testing the boundaries of acceptability on social media is a win-win for Trump's grievance politics. Either platforms give him a pass and let him spread misinformation unimpeded, or they crack down on him, fueling his claims that they're trying to silence him and other conservatives.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with Twitter's decision to flag another Trump tweet for abusive behavior.

Go deeper

Ina Fried, author of Login
Oct 1, 2020 - Technology

Facebook removes Trump ads tying refugees to COVID-19

Photo Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Facebook said Wednesday that it was removing a series of ads from President Trump's campaign that linked American acceptance of refugees with increased coronavirus risk, a connection Facebook says is without merit.

Why it matters: The ads were pulled after they received thousands of impressions and are a sign that the Trump campaign continues to test the limits of social media rules on false information.

Trump's 2 chilling debate warnings

Photo: Morry Gash/Pool via Getty Images

One of the few groups in America with anything to celebrate after last night's loud, ugly, rowdy presidential "debate" was the violent, far-right Proud Boys, after President Trump pointedly refused to condemn white supremacist groups.

Why it matters: This was a for-the-history-books moment in a debate that was mostly headache-inducing noise. Trump failed to condemn racist groups after four months when millions marched for racial justice in the country's largest wave of activism in half a century.

Misinformation thrives on social media ahead of presidential debate

Joe Biden speaking in Wilmington, Delaware, on Sept. 27. Photo: Roberto Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images

A baseless conspiracy theory that Joe Biden would wear an electronic device in his ear during the first presidential debate on Tuesday went viral on social media hours before the event.

Why it matters: The conspiracy originated on social media before appearing in a text message sent by President Trump’s re-election campaign to supporters. It was then regurgitated by media outlets like Fox News and New York Post, who cited the Trump campaign, throughout the day, according to NBC News.