The year Big Tech became the Ministry of Truth

Social media’s war on misinformation then went into overdrive in the run-up to the presidential election. In May, Twitter started fact-checking the words of President Trump, warning users about his claims that the upcoming election would be rigged against him. This was nonsense, of course, but Twitter’s move represented a worrying and unprecedented intervention into democracy. And things got worse. At the end of July, Twitter started removing some of Trump’s posts entirely for spreading misinformation about the coronavirus.

As the election drew closer, the social-media firms made the terrifying decision to remove and ban stories which were true, but were politically inconvenient. Many had blamed Facebook and Twitter for Trump’s shock win in 2016 – accusing the firms of hosting fake news and failing to spot foreign bots. Neither of these things could actually explain the ballot-box revolt, of course, but the platforms were determined never to be blamed again…

2020 was the year that the social-media giants truly bared their teeth. Facebook and Twitter stopped being facilitators of debate and discussion, and instead decided what was true or false, supposedly on our behalf. A dangerous development.