Winklevoss Twins: Social Media Fact Checking ‘Makes You a Publisher’ and Is Censorship

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey
Getty/ Drew Angerer

Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss — the Harvard-educated twins who accepted a settlement after accusing Mark Zuckerberg of stealing their idea for Facebook — are weighing in on Twitter’s decision to “fact check” President Donald Trump, saying that fact-checking makes a platform a publisher and therefore legally responsible for the content that appears on its site.

The Winklevoss twins tweeted their opinions on Thursday as President Trump prepared to sign an executive order aimed at addressing social media censorship in the wake of his escalating dispute with Twitter.

“Fact checking makes you a publisher. Selectively fact checking makes you a biased publisher,” Tyler Winklevoss tweeted. “Platforms that engage in this behavior are not neutral and should not be shielded from having to take responsibility for the content on their platform. You can’t have it both ways.”

His brother, Cameron, went even further by arguing that fact-checking is a form of censorship. “‘Fact checking’ is a euphemism for editorializing which is a form of censorship. And that’s a fact,” he wrote.

He added: “Anytime you qualify content, whether through fact-checking (or otherwise), you are altering its natural state. No matter how well-meaning, you are filtering the author’s original message. You may agree with the filter, but it’s still a form of censorship.”

Social media giants Twitter and Facebook have enjoyed special legal status under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act by presenting themselves as neutral platforms, thereby avoiding legal liability for what users say or share on their sites. But with its decision to fact check President Trump, Twitter may have created significant legal exposure for itself.

President Trump’s executive order is asking the federal government to rethink the legal guidelines, known as Section 230, that have protected social media companies from being sued for content shared by users.  The order urges the FCC to revisit the scope of Section 230 and empowers the Federal Trade Commission to field complaints about political bias.

On Thursday, Mark Zuckerberg doubled down on his insistence that Facebook won’t take political sides.

“I just believe strongly that Facebook shouldn’t be the arbiter of truth of everything that people say online,” Zuckerberg said in an interview with Fox News. “Private companies probably shouldn’t be, especially these platform companies, shouldn’t be in the position of doing that.”

But the company already performs fact checking of its site via a network of external fact-checkers, most of whom are left-leaning and have shown political bias.

Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss famously sued Zuckerberg in 2004, claiming that he stole their original idea for Facebook. The dispute was eventually settled for a reported $65 million.

The twins were played in the 2010 movie The Social Network by actor Armie Hammer in a double performance.

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