Amid ‘Fake News’ Spat, Elon Musk’s Twitter Fact-Checks White House and Wins

Amid ‘Fake News’ Spat, Elon Musk’s Twitter Fact-Checks White House and Wins

President Joe Biden, left, is shown in Washington, D.C., on November 2, 2022, while Elon Musk, right, is pictured at the Met Gala in New York City on May 2, 2022. Musk’s newly owned Twitter context-checked a tweet from the White House on Tuesday, which was later deleted.
Left: Michael A. McCoy, Right: Taylor Hill/Getty Images
Elon Musk’s Twitter has context-checked a since-deleted White House tweet boasting of increased Social Security benefits for seniors amid concerns over the spread of misinformation and fake news on the platform.

On Tuesday, the official White House Twitter account tweeted: “Seniors are getting the biggest increase in their Social Security checks in 10 years through President [Joe] Biden’s leadership.” The tweet did not mention that the payments were increasing automatically due to the U.S. inflation rate reaching its highest level in decades.

A Twitter feature called Birdwatch, which was introduced before Musk bought the platform and allows users to add “helpful” context to “potentially misleading” tweets, was activated after the White House issued the tweet. A note about the increased inflation appeared under the tweet, which was deleted by the White House a short time later.

Musk responded to libertarian activist Spike Cohen’s tweet detailing the sequence of events by tweeting, “The system is working,” while sharing a “rolling on the floor laughing” emoji.

The new owner of Twitter responded to a different tweet on the incident by praising the “awesome” Birdwatch feature, while adding that the platform’s “goal is to make Twitter the most accurate source of information on Earth, without regard to political affiliation.”

The deletion of the White House tweet came while others on the platform were intentionally spreading fake news claiming that former President Donald Trump had died, likely to illustrate concerns that Musk’s stance on “free speech” and new Twitter policies would enable misinformation.

Musk’s plan to offer “blue check” verification and “priority” treatment for $8 per month has come under particularly heavy fire, with critics arguing that the plan could stifle the speech of those who do not pay and aid potential impersonation and the spread of misinformation.

The White House’s decision to delete the tweet after the context note appeared was also heavily criticized. Prominent conservatives widely denounced the White House, although other blue check users like CNN fact-checker Daniel Dale also criticized the tweet and deletion.

“Why did the White House delete this tweet?” Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel tweeted. “If Biden wants ‘credit’ for inflation, he has it!”

“Glad to hear the White House is finally willing to admit that this sky-high inflation is their fault,” tweeted GOP Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi.

“Whoops!” Republican Representative Thomas Massie of Kentucky tweeted. “White House deleted this tweet after context showed it’s basically Biden bragging about causing massive inflation.”

Whoops! White House deleted this tweet after context showed it’s basically Biden bragging about causing massive inflation. https://t.co/aI9vQYtbru

— Thomas Massie (@RepThomasMassie) November 2, 2022
Dale noted that the White House had attempted “quite the spin,” before adding in a later tweet that the “misleading tweet about Social Security benefit increases” had been deleted. He also said that Biden had failed to acknowledge the connection between inflation and the payment increase while speaking about the rise in person.

White House deletes misleading tweet about Social Security benefit increases, explaining that it was missing “context.” But Biden’s out-loud versions of the boast also don’t include any acknowledgment that the increases are because of inflation: https://t.co/SuyY2EEg4b

— Daniel Dale (@ddale8) November 2, 2022

The White House defended the deletion on Wednesday while suggesting that the message had been removed because it was “not complete.”

“Look, the tweet was not complete,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said during a press conference. “Usually when we put out a tweet, we post it with context, and it did not have that context.”

“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,” she continued. “That’s a little bit of context that was not included.”

Jean-Pierre went on to credit the Biden administration for helping seniors “get ahead of inflation due to the rare combination of rising benefits and falling premiums,” before denouncing a “continued” threat to the programs from “MAGA Republicans in Congress.”

In a statement obtained by Newsweek, Jean-Pierre argued that the administration was helping seniors “put more money in their pockets” and providing them “with a little extra breathing room.”

Newsweek has reached out to Twitter for comment.

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