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Tipsheet

Is Twitter Finally Fact-Checking Biden?

Townhall Media

Since free speech absolutist Elon Musk's takeover of Twitter, a slow trickle of unusual user fact-checks has precipitated that question the validity of claims out of the (otherwise unchecked) Biden administration as well as the president's own mouth. Up until now, contextual notes added by "Birdwatch"—a pilot fact-checking program that deputizes an army of Twitter users to act as content moderators—have seldom, if at all, been critical of President Joe Biden's administration.

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The Biden White House was not accustomed to being subject to scrutiny outside of conservative circles and, instead, has been afforded ample leniency in the fact-check department, thanks to merciful treatment by industry "truth-seekers" who have all turned a blind eye to Biden officials spewing pure government propaganda. That's before Twitter changed hands.

In a since-deleted tweet, the White House published a post Tuesday that claimed America's senior citizens are "getting the biggest increase in their Social Security checks in 10 years through President Biden's leadership."

A fact-check was slapped on the White House's tweet patting Biden on the back over the upcoming cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for Social Security benefits. As the Birdwatchers pointed out, it's nothing to brag about.

COLA is an increase made to Social Security and Supplemental Security Income benefits to counteract the effects of rising prices and keep pace with record-high inflationThe note affixed to the White House's congratulatory mention explained that the jump in Social Security payments is an automatic adjustment that's based on the rate of inflation and is required by a Nixon-era law. The annotation also linked to the 1972 amendment's legislative history detailed on the Social Security Administration's websiteSocial Security benefits will rise by 8.7% next year, the largest COLA since 1981.

After the dumpster fire of a tweet crediting Biden for an inflation-driven boost in Social Security checks had crashed and burned, the boast was taken down altogether Wednesday without explanation. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was later grilled on the Biden administration's reason for the vanishing tweet during Wednesday's press briefing.

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"Look, the tweet was not complete. Usually, when we put out a tweet, we post it with context, and it did not have that context," Jean-Pierre said. "So in the past, we've pointed out that for the first time in over a decade seniors' Medicare premiums will decrease even as their Social Security checks increase. That's a little bit of context that was not included."

Jean-Pierre then regurgitated an old press statement of hers from mid-October accusing "MAGA Republicans in Congress" of threatening to place Social Security "on the chopping block," an accusation GOP leaders have debunked.

Compare this pivotal moment of Twitter fact-checkers holding the Biden White House responsible for its faulty rhetoric to when White House chief of staff Ron Klain tweeted last month that for "the first time in a decade," Social Security benefits will "go up while Medicare premiums are going DOWN." No context was attached at the time to Klain's Oct. 13 tweet spinning the story on rampant inflation in Biden's America. The article Klain quote tweeted even reported that Social Security recipients expressed that it's chump change that will be eaten up by the inflated cost of everyday living.

While many users have speculated that the turning of the tide is by virtue of a Musk-controlled Twitter, the business magnate clarified last Friday that there have not yet been any official changes to the social media site's content moderation policies. "Twitter will be forming a content moderation council with widely diverse viewpoints. No major content decisions or account reinstatements will happen before that council convenes," Musk announced in a standalone tweet.

But just Wednesday morning, in response to the White House's public crucifixion via Birdwatch patrol, Musk acknowledged the neighborhood watch as a force for good and called the community notes feature "awesome," stating that his goal is to make Twitter "the most accurate source of information on Earth, without regard to political affiliation."

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Still, Twitter's new CEO supporting an equal opportunity of pushback on Twitter regardless of party identification indicates that Musk wants to rebuild Twitter into a cyber town square, an online forum free from one-sided, unfair pile-ons.

As Musk declared Sunday, "Twitter should be even-handed, favoring neither side."

It should be noted that Birdwatch predates Musk's acquisition of Twitter and the initiative is purportedly not policed by Twitter employees. "Twitter doesn't choose what shows up," Birdwatch's About page says, "the people do." Context is penned by anonymous contributors with wacky, three-word avian aliases like "Legendary Avocado Owl" created by a randomized name generator. Birdwatch fact-checks appear when rated "helpful" by others and user-written notes compete with one another to capture the locked-in spot below the contentious tweet that might be labeled misleading.

On the Birdwatch tab for enrolled Birdwatchers, users can rate notes that "need a more diverse range of feedback" to collaboratively determine overall "helpfulness." Notes in need of ratings request that Birdwatchers help "ensure that notes shown on Tweets are helpful to people with varying points of view" and the selected few have been upvoted through consensus by "a diversity of perspectives" to make Birdwatch "less susceptible to mass manipulation," one note alleges. Birdwatch uses a bridging-based algorithm to bolster its resistance to partisan ratings, but challenges, of course, arise in an open, participatory system like Birdwatch that's vulnerable to ideological domination via a simple majority.

Algorithmic ranking and recommendation systems choose what content is shown to users. Because attention is the currency, many engagement-powered reward structures promote divisive behavior, while bridging-based ranking rewards behavior that "bridges divides" around divisive topics. What's considered unifying could be as duplicitous as Biden's "unity" agenda. Sure, there are kinks to iron out, but Twitter's social experiment is producing a net positive...for now.

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So why the sudden hike in fact-checks, especially against Democratic leadership? It's true that Twitter chatter among note-takers has ramped up recently as Birdwatch notes are popping up everywhereAccording to a Sept. 7 press release, Birdwatch is rolling out a new onboarding process, which means an expansion of its contributor base. More eligible applicants will be added on a more frequent basis, and the visibility of notes will also be increasing "[i]n the coming weeks." The timing coincides with Musk uprooting the rot and changing company culture at the administrative level.

We're used to witnessing the left-wing establishment weaponize Big Tech's "fact-checking" of so-called "misinformation" as a form of biased censorship against conservative voices. In the lead-up to the looming November midterms, a community-led takeback of the conservation during an election year inspires hope among dissidents who've been locked in Twitter jail or whose opinions were suppressed for not being aligned with the prescribed narrative. On a platform as popular as Twitter, the American electorate should be able to dispute falsehoods uttered by our elected officials.

Beforehand, Birdwatch notes that fact-checked state propagandists and blue-check liberals alike never seemed to see the light of day or weren't composed to begin with. Nevertheless, it's refreshing to see a leveling of the playing field and what could be a long-term and overdue restoration of fairness in the public discourse, proving that the powers that be aren't such a protected, untouchable class after all. "Power to the people!" decrees Musk, liberator and breaker of chains.

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Here are other recent examples of Twitter users fact-checking the Biden regime's false claims and blatant lies:

1. Biden's Gas Prices Lie

Last week, Birdwatchers flocked to Townhall's viral tweet Friday that fact-checked Biden for falsely claiming during televised Oct. 27 remarks in Syracuse, New York, that gas prices were "over $5" when he took office. As Townhall reported, at the beginning of Biden's presidency, gas prices averaged about $2.39 per gallon. Birdwatchers concurred.

The national average price for a gallon of regular gasoline in the week ending on Jan. 25, 2021, right after Biden entered the White House on Jan. 20, 2021, was approximately $2.39, per data available from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. According to a weekly report by the EIA that a Birdwatch note sources, the national average retail gas price on Jan. 20, 2021, was $2.379 per gallon. The average did not reach $5 until—over a year into Biden's tenure.

2. Biden's Claim About Corporate Tax Avoidance

Also on that day, Biden's handlers tweeted a dubious claim from the president's official Twitter account, asserting that 55 corporations made $40 billion in 2020 yet did not pay anything in federal taxes. "Let me give you the facts," Biden's tweet is prefaced, then concludes that his falsely labeled Inflation Reduction Act "puts an end" to the corporate tax loophole.

This figure is one of Biden's favorite statistics to repeat and Twitter's fact-checking users finally took notice.

Birdwatchers flagged Biden's tweet for inflating the number of U.S. corporations that were making billions. Biden's misnamed Inflation Reduction Act imposes a 15% minimum corporate tax on companies with average pre-tax annual earnings over $1 billion, Twitter readers wrote in a disclaimer, citing a summer Congressional Research Service report.

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Out of the 55 corporations Biden mentioned, only 14 had earnings greater than $1 billion and would be eligible under Biden's tax law, the Birdwatch fact-check counters. Biden's number derives from an April 2021 report issued by the left-leaning Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP), which studied corporate filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission of Fortune 500 companies that posted profits. ITEP's analysis found that 55 profitable companies had not paid federal corporate income taxes in 2020 despite enjoying a collective gain of $40+ billion in pre-tax income.

3. Dick Durbin's Legal Hot Take

This one's a bonus, demonstrating that other Democrats are, at long last, facing criticism on the Big Tech platform beyond disgruntled Twitter replies. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), a lawyer-turned-senator who graduated from Georgetown University Law Center, was mercilessly dragged for claiming in a ratio'ed tweet that free speech "does not include spreading misinformation to downplay political violence." In the first post of his two-tweet thread, Durbin referenced unsubstantiated theories about the at-home attack on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's husband Paul Pelosi.

Durbin lashed out at Musk for sharing one such theory, alleging that Twitter has seen an "uptick in hate speech" since the tech tycoon began making major moves. But free speech protections apply even when it's speech Durbin doesn't like.

"Misleading information to downplay political violence is protected speech," ruled the Birdwatch note appended to Durbin's legal hot take, linking to a Wikipedia list of First Amendment limitations and exceptions to freedom of speech.


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