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misinformation appeal

June 3, 2020

Social Media’s Role in Monitoring Misinformation

Help students learn about social media's role in monitoring misinformation and how Twitter is taking a stand against Donald Trump.


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Monitoring Misinformation in The Trump Era

Read the news summary, watch the video and answer the discussion questions. The video has been edited for length. To watch the video in its entirety or read the transcript, click here.

President Donald Trump’s messages to his more than 80 million Twitter followers can carry a lot of weight—but don’t always represent the truth. A new initiative by Twitter to fact check the tweets of influential figures such as President Trump has stirred debate over the role of social media platforms as content moderators. 

  • For the first time this week, Twitter has applied a note to one of Trump’s tweets offering a fact check of his claims. Trump has since vowed consequences for Twitter’s new policy.
  • Meanwhile, the president continues to use social media to suggest without evidence that a media figure (who is often critical of the president) may have been connected to the murder of a former employee.
  • The former fiance of the woman who passed away has written a letter to Twitter saying that Trump’s tweets are misinformation. The letter asks Twitter to delete the president’s accusatory tweets. Twitter has decided not to delete them.

Social Media & Misinformation: Discussion Questions

  1. Essential question: Should social media platforms seek to correct, delete or otherwise discourage misinformation? If so, how? If not, why not?
  2. Do you think Twitter should honor the request in the letter mentioned in this video and delete Trump’s tweets that the letter-writer says contain falsehoods? Why do you think Twitter has decided to not honor the request?
  3. Why might a politician such as Trump continue to make claims that are without evidence or known to be false? Do you think social media platforms like Twitter should do more or less to moderate claims by world leaders than other users? Explain.
  4. Media literacy: BuzzFeed News Media Editor Craig Silverman describes Trump’s strategy as one of “hacking the media” for attention by making evidence-free claims. How does “hacking the media” work? In your opinion, how should news sources cover false or evidence-free claims by influential figures? 

If there is time: Have students read the follow-up article about Trump’s accusations that Twitter is “interfering in the 2020 election” and his threats to “strongly regulate” or “close down” Twitter. Discuss with your students the role of the First Amendment in limiting the president’s ability to regulate a social media company such as Twitter. Then discuss the following questions:

  1. Should the government have the power to regulate what content a platform like Twitter allows to be posted by its users? Explain.
  2. The First Amendment only applies to government actions. But do you think platforms like Twitter should abide by the “spirit” of free speech as some argue and avoid deleting or moderating users’ posts? Why or why not?

Read the original post.

PBS NewsHour Classroom

PBS NewsHour Classroom helps teachers and students identify the who, what, where and why-it-matters of the major national and international news stories.

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