On Friday, the Washington Post introduced a Chrome plugin that will automatically display commentary next to Donald Trump’s tweets. Spearheaded by the Post’s politics team at The Fix, the plugin provides context and fact-checking of, for example, Trump’s claims that millions of people voted illegally in the November election.
The Post has retroactively fact-checked Trump’s recent tweets, and they say they’ll continue adding commentary to new tweets in something close to real time.
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It’s no surprise that the Post would roll out a tool that aims to undermine Trump’s statements. The paper is owned by Jeff Bezos, who famously sparred with Trump on Twitter. During his campaign, Trump blacklisted Post reporters from campaign events for a time. The Post Editorial Board in September referred to Trump’s business practices as “sleazy.”
Of course, while it might be convenient for those critical of Trump, the plugin is inherently an exercise in preaching to the choir—it’s unlikely that anyone supportive of Trump is going to go to the trouble of installing a Chrome plugin that promises to undermine him.
The Post team seems to understand their constituency, in some cases providing commentary that pushes the boundary between fact-checking and partisan apologetics:
We’re now in a political climate where even studiously objective fact-checkers like Snopes and Politifact get branded as “far-left” when they comment on dubious right-wing news. If the Post truly wants to encourage more measured dialogue—rather than just flattering those who have done things that are “in no way illegal”—they may want to reassess their approach.