Enlarge / Twitter's policies currently protect apparent rule-breaking posts due to a "world leader" clause. Tuesday saw the social media service try a different tack.Aurich Lawson / Getty Images

Twitter's newest fact-checking initiative, which slaps warnings on misleading posts by major public officials, appeared on arguably the biggest possible account in North America on Tuesday: President Donald Trump.

Earlier that day, Trump used Twitter to allege that mail-in voting is inherently "fraudulent." Hours later, his posts were updated by Twitter to include a clickable, plain-text notice—"get the facts about mail-in ballots"—next to an exclamation-point icon.

Clicking that notice directs users to a page that cites "CNN, Washington Post and other fact checkers" in disputing the president's Tuesday-morning allegation. But before the Twitter page links to these citations, it opens with what appears to be entirely original language, as opposed to a quote from a press outlet:

Trump falsely claimed that mail-in ballots would lead to "a Rigged Election." However, fact-checkers say there is no evidence that mail-in ballots are linked to voter fraud. Trump falsely claimed that California will send mail-in ballots to "anyone living in the state, no matter who they are or how they got there." In fact, only registered voters will receive ballots. Though Trump targeted California, mail-in ballots are already used in some states, including Oregon, Utah and Nebraska.

A Twitter representative confirmed in an email to Ars Technica that this fact-checking page is "created and managed by our global curation team," as opposed to being made up of language from other writers or outlets. Twitter directed us to that team's curation style guide.

  • As of press time, Trump's Tuesday morning posts about mail-in voter fraud include plain-text, clickable notices, advising users to "get the facts." Twitter
  • Clicking these brings up a lengthy, scrolling feed that revolves around Twitter's fact-check. Anything not specifically credited to an outside agency or outlet is written by Twitter's global curation team. Twitter
  • "What you need to know." Again, these bullet points are written by Twitter's global curation team. Twitter
  • After those, the scroll adds formal citations from newspapers and other outlets. Twitter

The rest of Twitter's fact-check page plays out much like its coverage of viral news trends, where various posts are presented in semi-chronological order to tell a narrative about a developing story. The page's headline is as firm as the above-quoted paragraph: "Trump makes unsubstantiated claim that mail-in ballots will lead to voter fraud."

“Such a horrible thing”

In terms of timing, Twitter's application of a fact-check label came on the same day critics called out another bizarre post from the president: an indirect accusation of murder. Roughly one hour after decrying mail-in voting, Trump used his Twitter account to mention "the opening of a cold case" relating to MSNBC host Joe Scarborough and then asked "whether or not Joe could have done such a horrible thing." This vague post isn't Trump's first time hinting to the death of a Scarborough staffer in 2001—and, once again, he has danced around direct language to avoid making a specific accusation.

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