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Did X ‘call out’ Murtaza Solangi on post about Imran Khan’s article in The Economist?

Opinion-based now-removed Community Note passed off as X’s decision

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Claim: The social media platform X has “lashed out” at the Government of Pakistan and “called out” Murtaza Solangi over his post regarding an article written by Imran Khan for The Economist and advised him to “Verify Facts Before Sharing”.

Fact: X has not “lashed out” at the Government of Pakistan or “called out” Murtaza Solangi. In fact, a community note, which has now been removed, was added to Solangi’s post. Community Notes are not written, edited or removed by X.

On 6 January 2024, Instagram account @tribune.pk posted (archive) a visual with the following text:

“The Economist Article is Credible, Verify Facts Before Sharing: X Lashes Out on Pakistani Govt”

The visual features pictures of the chief executive of SpaceX and Tesla, Inc., owner of the X (formerly Twitter), and the co-founder of OpenAI, Elon Musk, alongside Murtaza Solangi, a Pakistani journalist who currently holds the position of Caretaker Information and Broadcasting Minister.

The accompanying caption reads, “Twitter (X) has called out Pakistan’s Interim Information Minister, Murtaza Solangi, who criticized The Economist for providing a platform to the ‘convict’ Imran Khan. X added community notes under Solangi’s tweet, mentioning that Imran Khan’s sentence had been suspended by the Islamabad High Court on January 4th. X also stated that The Economist article is legitimate and credible, advising the Pakistani interim minister to verify facts before sharing.”

However, the caption was later edited to include the following line, “P.S: X has removed the community note, which could’ve been the reason for a negative rating.”

It is important to note that @tribune.pk is not affiliated with The Express Tribune, the Instagram handle of which is @etribune.

Khan in trouble

Former prime minister and PTI chief, Imran Khan, was arrested (archive) and imprisoned after a court ruled his “dishonesty has been established beyond doubt” in the Toshakhana case. He was incarcerated on 5 August 2023.

The 71-year-old hid “the benefits he accrued from the national exchequer wilfully and intentionally” and “cheated while providing information of gifts he obtained from Toshakhana, which later proved to be false and inaccurate” during his tenure from 2018 to 2022, as per a short order — cited here (archive) — by Additional District and Sessions Judge (ADSJ) Humayun Dilawar of an Islamabad trial court.

Khan was given a three-year jail sentence but maintains his innocence. He faces over 100 charges since his removal from power last year, according to the BBC (archive). The conviction was overturned on 29 August, Reuters reported (archive) but he faces other cases as well.

The PTI has alleged that the authorities are preventing its candidates from contesting the highly-anticipated upcoming 2024 polls. The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on 30 December 2023 rejected (archive) Khan’s nomination papers as he is “convicted by the court of law” and on account of his “disqualification under the Constitution”.

The party’s electoral symbol, the cricket bat, symbolising Khan’s cricketing past, became a bone of contention ahead of the general elections; it was first taken from them before the decision was reversed (archive) by the Peshawar High Court on 10 January. The Supreme Court, however, ruled (archive) against the PTI late on 13 January, stripping the bat away decisively.

In addition to this, Reuters reported (archive), “Khan was charged on Wednesday with contempt of the electoral commission, his lawyer Naeem [Haider Panjutha] said, a move related to allegations he made derogatory remarks about the chief election commissioner.”

In a recent court update (archive), Khan was indicted over charges of “leaking state secrets” but pleaded not guilty. He was accused of making public a “cypher,” or classified cable, sent home by Pakistan’s ambassador to the US last year that he claims “was proof of a conspiracy by the Pakistani military and U.S. government to topple his government in 2022 after he visited Moscow just before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine”.

Fact or Fiction?

X’s Community Notes (archive) feature, earlier known as Birdwatch, is a mechanism to flag false and misleading posts, alongside providing context that may be helpful to the users.

“Community Notes aim to create a better informed world by empowering people on X to collaboratively add context to potentially misleading posts. Contributors can leave notes on any post and if enough contributors from different points of view rate that note as helpful, the note will be publicly shown on a post,” says X on its blog pertaining to the feature.

Any user can become a contributor (archive) to Community Notes. However, it is important to note that X claims the company does not influence Community Notes and does not remove or edit them either.

The platform says, “Community Notes do not represent X’s viewpoint and cannot be edited or modified by our teams. A post with a Community Note will not be labelled, removed, or addressed by X unless it is found to be violating the X Rules, Terms of Service, or our Privacy Policy.”

“X doesn’t write, rate or moderate notes (unless they break X’s Rules),” it adds.

Therefore, the claim that X “lashed out” or “called out” Murtaza Solangi is false.

The second claim, which was made when the Instagram post’s caption was edited, is also false since X cannot remove a Community Note.

Community Notes do not work by “majority rules”; therefore, in order “to identify notes that are helpful to a wide range of people, notes require agreement between contributors who have sometimes disagreed in their past ratings” and to “prevent one-sided ratings”, the platform says.

Soch Fact Check found that Helpful Community Notes — an X-affiliated account that tracks flagged posts — did identify (archive) a note that appeared on Solangi’s post (archive). However, it is no longer visible and seems to have been removed, likely because of one or more of the following reasons listed as “unhelpful attributes” (archive):

  • Sources not included or unreliable
  • Sources do not support note
  • Incorrect information
  • Opinion or speculation
  • Typos or unclear language
  • Misses key points or irrelevant
  • Argumentative or biased language
  • Note not needed on this post
  • Harassment or abuse

The Community Note visible in the visual posted by @tribune.pk reads as follows:

“This tweet is false. Imran Khan’s conviction was suspended by the Islamabad High Court on January 4, 2024. The Economist article is legitimate and credible. No evidence of ghostwriting or double standard. Verify facts and sources before sharing.”

The note includes a link to a CBC article (archive) titled, “Pakistan court suspends former PM Imran Khan’s prison sentence for selling state gifts”.

While authentic, the article is from August 2023, before the former premier was indicted (archive) over charges of “leaking state secrets”, making the information in the Community Note outdated.

Furthermore, the use of words such as “legitimate,” “credible,” and “double standard,” as well as phrases like “verify facts and sources before sharing” shows partiality, indicating likely why the Community Note was rated as ‘Not Helpful’.

We were also able to access all the notes available on the post that indicate the Community Notes feature was perhaps misused by Pakistani users on X in this case.

Virality

@tribune.pk’s post has received close to 1,000 likes while another one by @republic.pk garnered over 2,400 likes.

Soch Fact Check found that the false claim made its way to other social media platforms as well, including here, here, here, here, and here on Facebook, here on LinkedIn, and here on X.

Conclusion: X has not “lashed out” at the Government of Pakistan or “called out” Murtaza Solangi. In fact, a community note, which has now been removed, was added to Solangi’s post. Community Notes are not written, edited or removed by X.


Background image in cover photo: Kelly Sikkema


To appeal against our fact-check, please send an email to appeals@sochfactcheck.com

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