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Joe Biden’s campaign issued a statement calling for Twitter and Facebook to remove President Trump’s posts about mail-in ballots. The social media platforms declined to do so.

Joe Biden, the presumptive Democrat presidential nominee, asked Facebook and Twitter to take down President Trump’s social media posts on the grounds that they provide misleading information about mail-in ballots. 

Biden’s campaign issued a statement on Monday calling for the immediate removal of Trump’s posts and accusing the President of running a program of voter suppression. The statement reads, “what we are seeing today is more of the same: a desperate attempt to rewrite reality to revive this President’s faltering re-election campaign.”

What happened?

On Monday, Trump took to Twitter to issue a series of attacks on mail-in ballots. He tweeted, “RIGGED 2020 ELECTION: MILLIONS OF MAIL-IN BALLOTS WILL BE PRINTED BY FOREIGN COUNTRIES, AND OTHERS. IT WILL BE THE SCANDAL OF OUR TIMES!” 

He followed up with another tweet claiming that mail-in ballots lead to rigged elections, adding, “we voted during World War One & World War Two with no problem, but now they are using COVID-19 in order to cheat by using Mail-Ins!”

Most states offer at least one way for eligible voters to cast a ballot before Election day. In response to a global pandemic, numerous states implemented vote-by-mail plans so those with concerns about COVID-19 infection can send in their ballots from home.  

Trump, who himself submitted absentee ballots through the mail, criticized the vote-by-mail program for weeks, claiming that Democrats will abuse the program for favorable results in November’s Presidential election.

Election officials refuted Trump’s claims. “We are not aware of any evidence supporting the claims made by President Trump,” the National Assn. of Secretaries of State said in a statement. “As always, we are open to learning more about the Administration’s concerns.”

Health officials recommend expanding vote-by-mail options to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at polling places, but mail-in ballots developed over the years to become a partisan issue, and some Republicans strongly pushed back against its usage. 

Biden’s campaign statement argues, “voters should have more options for voting, not fewer, and no American should have to choose between their health and exercising their right to vote.”

In response to Biden’s campaign statement, Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said “voter rolls are notorious for including people who no longer live at the address on file, or are even deceased… It is a wide-open invitation for fraud and an undermining of election integrity.”

Despite being a contentious partisan issue, absentee voting saw an increase in usage over the past two decades. In 2016, 21% of general election ballots were cast by mail, compared with 7.8% in 1996, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Trump’s consistent attacks on absentee voting could stem from his concerns that expanding vote-by-mail programs could cost him re-election. His own campaign launched a multimillion-dollar legal effort to block that from happening. 

Back in March, on the subject of absentee voting, Trump said on Fox News, “if you ever agreed to it you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”

What are Facebook and Twitter doing?

Facebook and Twitter declined to remove Trump’s posts, citing that his posts did not violate the platforms’ policies. 

Though Biden’s campaign mounted a weeks-long attack on Facebook for not removing political disinformation, Twitter rolled out new measures to protect election integrity and civic integrity last month. More specifically, Twitter unveiled misinformation labels and has already flagged one of Trump’s tweets about mail-in ballots for spreading misinformation.

Twitter’s policies forbid the platform from taking down tweets of important figures, like Trump, because they are of “public interest.” Instead, tweets that violate company policies will be labeled for misinformation or blocked so that users have to click through in order to view the content. 

However, as of Tuesday, Twitter did not label Trump’s recent tweets claiming mail-in ballots lead to rigged elections for misinformation.

Facebook refused to change its approach. In response to Biden’s campaign statements about its platform in early June, Facebook referred to Trump’s executive order for social media sites to stop fact-checking political statements and prevent online censorship.

“We live in a democracy, where the elected officials decide the rules around campaigns. Two weeks ago the President of the United States issued an executive order directing the Federal agencies to prevent social media sites from engaging in activities like fact-checking political statements. This week, the Democratic candidate for President started a petition calling on us to do the exact opposite,” Facebook’s response said.

Candy Chan

Candy Chan is studying History with a focus on War and Revolution at Barnard College. She is currently a staff writer at the Columbia Daily Spectator, covering issues pertaining to Columbia's...