It’s only taken about a week for Twitter to become the ultimate symbol of Big Tech (Big T) censoring conservative speech in the minds of Republican politicians. And the GOP outrage has manifested in a telling blunder.
On Wednesday afternoon, the account for the Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee tweeted the following:
In case it’s not immediately apparent from that screenshot, House Judiciary members are implying that Twitter is trying to slap a warning label onto their retweet of an article from Fox News host Sean Hannity. The social network has used warning labels on President Trump’s tweets that spread false information or violate its policies, but that’s not what’s going on here. In fact, the screenshot shows a message that’s simply suggesting that the owner of the account read the article before they tweet it.
Earlier this month, Twitter announced a number of adjustments it’s making to help slow the spread of misinformation in the lead up to the election. So, in general, you may see some unusual functions on the platform. But the prompt encouraging people to read an article that they haven’t opened on Twitter was announced as a test for Android back in June, started rolling out on iOS this month, and may become a permanent fixture of the platform.
Responding to the GOP account, Twitter Support explained the situation, saying, “We’re doing this to encourage everyone to read news articles before Tweeting them, regardless of the publication or the article. If you want to Retweet or Quote Tweet it, literally just click once more.”
Last week, Twitter came under fire after it banned a link to a New York Post story that was factually suspect on a number of levels. Critics, like myself, often mock conservatives’ incessant claims of victimhood and violations of the First Amendment when it comes to private companies’ moderation policies. But Twitter’s move crossed a line into reckless censorship with broad implications, and its CEO, Jack Dorsey, quickly apologised while announcing a new policy shift.
For once, Republicans had something fairly legitimate to gripe about, but now they’re back into their old ways — wilfully misunderstanding the issues and demonstrating an inability to read.
The House Judiciary GOP account’s tweet is still up at the time of writing, no correction was issued, and at no point has it gotten around to properly retweeting that Sean Hannity link that it was so enthusiastic about sharing. It has retweeted about 10 other things in the meantime, though, including several complaints about censorship and an exciting trailer previewing the Senate Commerce Committee’s hearing big tech CEOs next week.
— Senate Commerce (@SenateCommerce) October 21, 2020