Hey Twitter: You Need a Time Machine to Fact-Check the Future

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On May 26, Twitter appended a fact-check warning to two of Donald Trump’s tweets. It was the first time it had issued a fact-check warning on any of Trump’s numerous tweets. What did these particular tweets say that made them so untrue? Let’s take a look.

Twitter responded several hours later with a ‘What you need to know” box.

So Twitter is saying Trump’s claim that mail-in balloting would lead to “a Rigged Election” is false. But on what logical grounds can Twitter say such a claim is false?

It is a fundamental truth of time that we cannot say predictions of the future are true or false. They may turn out to be right or wrong, accurate or inaccurate, but at the time they are made they cannot be proved true or false. Why not? This goes all the way back to Logic 101. I predict you will rob a bank on Tuesday. You may object and say you have never robbed a bank and have no plans to rob one. But you cannot prove I was wrong till Wednesday rolls around and we can see all the money is still in the bank. Or, maybe we find you did rob the bank after all.

There is even a deeper sense in which Trump’s conditional statements cannot be judged true or false. Trump asserts mail boxes will be robbed and ballots will be forged in the future if mail-in balloting is expanded. It is a warning of what will happen if certain actions are taken. His goal is to prevent expanded mail-in balloting and thereby to prevent potential voter fraud. If his advice is heeded, his prediction of adverse consequences will not come true. That does not mean he is wrong. If his warning prevents the antecedent from occurring, we will have no way of determining if his conditionality statement was true. Suppose I make a conditional statement: “If we get rid of guards at the bank, then bank robberies will increase” hoping that you will not get rid of any guards. If you do not get rid of any bank guards and bank robberies do not increase, there is by the laws of logic no way of saying if my conditional statement was true or false.

Twitter revealed it has no understanding of logic when it said Trump had “falsely claimed” events in the future will happen. Twitter editors can send out their own tweets with their own predictions and warnings about the future. But unless they have a working crystal ball or time machine, there is know way of knowing for sure what will happen. You cannot fact-check a prediction of the future.

Mathematician, Statistician, Businessman, and Academic. Student of history, poli sci , and the Bible.

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