On Tuesday, Twitter angered the White House by flagging multiple tweets from President Donald Trump about mail-in ballots as being potentially misleading, in a first for the company.
But rival Facebook confirmed to CNN Business it plans to take no action with an identical post from Trump on its platform.
The stark contrast sheds light on how the major tech platforms continue to abide by different playbooks in how they handle content moderation — specifically content from perhaps their most high-profile user — despite having previously tried to present a united front in handling misinformation when representatives appeared before Congress.
When third-party fact-checkers, hired by Facebook (FB) to curb its misinformation problem, deem something to be false, Facebook (FB) downranks the material, meaning it will be seen by fewer people. But posts from politicians are exempt.
“We don’t believe that it’s an appropriate role for us to referee political debates and prevent a politician’s speech from reaching its audience and being subject to public debate and scrutiny,” Nick Clegg, the former deputy prime minister of the United Kingdom and now a Facebook vice president, wrote in a blog post last year.
Although Facebook has some rules against voter suppression and misinformation efforts, the company said Trump’s claims did not break them.
“We believe that people should be able to have a robust debate about the electoral process, which is why we have crafted our policies to focus on misrepresentations that would interfere with the vote,” a Facebook spokesperson told CNN Business on Tuesday night.
Trump falsely claimed on Facebook and Twitter this week that the governor of California was sending out mail-in ballots to “anyone living in the state, no matter who they are or how they got there.”
California Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order expanding vote-by-mail in the state, but it provides ballots only to people who are registered to vote. Noncitizens, including undocumented immigrants, are explicitly not permitted to register to vote in federal elections.
A Twitter spokesperson said Trump’s tweets contained “potentially misleading information about voting processes” and had been “labeled to provide additional context.” Twitter appended a message to each tweet that read: “Get the facts about mail-in ballots.” It linked to a curated fact-checking page populated with experts and news article summaries debunking the claim.
The move prompted Trump to post a series of tweets threatening to crack down on social media platforms.
In a statement to CNN Business, Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon said: “It is fully appropriate to label false and misleading tweets, especially by the president. Facebook should take responsibility for addressing Donald Trump’s misinformation campaign when it comes to vote by mail and follow suit.”