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Twitter can't handle the truth
On Monday, Popular Information reported that the Manatee County School District instructed teachers to make their classroom libraries inaccessible to students, or risk felony prosecution. The directive was issued as part of an effort to comply with new laws and regulations championed by Governor Ron DeSantis (R). It was based on the premise that teachers are using books to "groom" students or indoctrinate them with leftist ideologies.
Popular Information's report was based on numerous interviews and social media posts from Manatee County teachers and an interview with Kevin Chapman, the Chief of Staff for the Manatee County School District. We asked Chapman if teachers were being told to "take the books off of the classroom library shelves" until they could be vetted. "That's accurate," Chapman responded.
Shortly after publication, we posted the story on Twitter, where it immediately attracted significant attention. As of this writing, our 21-tweet thread has been viewed 3.9 million times.
As the tweet circulated widely, however, Twitter appended a "Community Note" stating that "[a]ll books are not being removed from classroom libraries."
The purpose of a Community Note, according to Twitter, is to "add context to potentially misleading Tweets." The biggest problem with this Community Note is that it is wrong. Teachers in Manatee County have been told to remove all books from their classroom libraries. On Monday, for example, teachers at Bayshore High School in Manatee County received the following message: "Remove or cover all classroom libraries until all materials can be reviewed."
The sentence "[o]nly unvetted books will be removed" underscores the accuracy of Popular Information's report. Classroom libraries are assembled by teachers, not librarians. At the time the policy was announced, all books in classroom libraries were "unvetted." Previously, teachers were trusted to manage their own classrooms.
Appending inaccurate information to Popular Information's tweet raises disturbing questions about the nature of Twitter. The Community Note feature has been championed by Elon Musk, the billionaire who purchased Twitter for $44 billion in the fall. Musk is also a public supporter of DeSantis. Now, the Community Note feature is being used to discredit accurate reporting about the impacts of DeSantis' policies.
Musk has made clear that he believes other efforts at community moderation are biased against the right. He argued that Community Notes will be a corrective. Two days ago, Musk said he was "going to great lengths to avoid the Wikipedia left wing editorial control problem" with Community Notes.
Musk added that "Community Notes cannot be biased towards the right either." Since taking over Twitter, however, Musk has repeatedly catered to the far-right.
The fact that Twitter is now controlled by a right-wing billionaire is a problem for Popular Information. To date, about half of all Popular Information subscribers learned about the newsletter through Twitter. But it's clear that Popular Information can no longer rely on the audience we've built on Twitter to drive its growth.
That's why I need your help. If we want more people to read our groundbreaking accountability journalism, we must invest in alternative growth strategies. You can make sure Popular Information survives and thrives in this brave new world by purchasing a paid subscription: