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Twitter not interested in policing 'fake news' on its site: 'We are not the arbiters of truth

Testifying before British lawmakers at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., Twitter executive Nick Pickles said Thursday that the site has no interest in policing fake news on its site. “We are not the arbiters of truth,” Pickles said. (2013 file photo/Bethany Clarke/Getty Images)

At a time when Facebook is doing more to remove fake news from its website, Twitter is washing its hands of any responsibility for the truthfulness of the information users post, according to the Washington Post.

Nick Pickles, Twitter’s head of public policy for the United Kingdom, made it clear during a committee hearing at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., when he stated, “We are not the arbiters of truth.”

What did Pickles say?

Pickles was testifying before British lawmakers in the first public committee hearing held by Britain’s House of Commons outside the United Kingdom.

Executives from Twitter, Facebook and Google took questions about the issue of false information online, and what they believed should be done about information that is “provably, demonstrably untrue.”

“I don’t think technology companies should be deciding during an election what is true and what is not true, which is what you’re asking us to do,” Pickles said. “I think that’s a very important principle."

Pickles maintained that Twitter would only remove content from the site if it violated rules, such as those against hate speech, violent threats, or pornography.

“We are not going to remove content based on the fact this is untrue,” Pickles said.

Different approaches

Facebook recently announced that it would allow users to rank how trustworthy news sources are with a survey and will begin utilizing fact-checkers during election seasons, such as next month in Italy.

Google tried to implement a fact-checking feature on news searches, showing third-party fact-checks beside some news stories. It was criticized for not being applied consistently to all sites, with some conservative news sources seeming to be flagged more than liberal ones.

It appears that Twitter, seeing the trouble and criticism that comes with trying to decide what’s true and what isn’t, has opted to let its users figure it out for themselves.

“The one strength that Twitter has is it’s a hive of journalists, of citizens, of activists correcting the record, correcting information,” Pickles said.

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