Trump Warns Twitter: New Regs, Shutdown05/28 06:31
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Donald Trump, the historically prolific tweeter
of political barbs and blasts, threatened social media companies with new
regulation or even shuttering after Twitter added fact checks to two of his
tweets. He turned to his Twitter account where else? to tweet his
The president can't unilaterally regulate or close the companies, and any
effort would likely require action by Congress. His administration shelved a
proposed executive order empowering the Federal Communications Commission to
regulate technology companies, citing concerns it wouldn't pass legal muster.
But that didn't stop Trump from angrily issuing strong warnings.
Tech giants "silence conservative voices," he claimed on Twitter early
Wednesday. "We will strongly regulate, or close them down, before we can ever
allow this to happen." Later, also on Twitter, he threatened, "Big Action to
follow." And in one more late-night tweet, he said "Big Tech" was "going
absolutely CRAZY. Stay Tuned!!!"
Press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Trump would sign an executive order
relating to social media companies but provided no further details. White House
strategic communications director Alyssa Farah said Trump would sign it
In his tweet, he repeated his unsubstantiated claim which sparked his
latest showdown with Silicon Valley that expanding mail-in voting "would be
a free for all on cheating, forgery and the theft of Ballots."
Late Wednesday, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted, "We'll continue to point
out incorrect or disputed information about elections globally."
Dorsey added: "This does not make us an ?arbiter of truth.' Our intention is
to connect the dots of conflicting statements and show the information in
dispute so people can judge for themselves."
Twitter's decision to mark Trump's tweets regarding mail-in balloting came
as the president was sparking another social media firestorm, continuing to
stoke a debunked conspiracy theory accusing MSNBC host Joe Scarborough of
killing a former congressional office staffer. Prominent Republicans, including
Rep. Liz Cheney and Sen. Mitt Romney, urged Trump to drop the attack, which
hasn't been marked with a fact check by the social media company.
Trump and his campaign lashed out at the company Tuesday after Twitter added
a warning phrase to two Trump tweets that called mail-in ballots "fraudulent"
and predicted "mail boxes will be robbed." Under the tweets, there's now a link
reading "Get the facts about mail-in ballots" that guides users to a page with
fact checks and news stories about Trump's unsubstantiated claims.
Trump replied on Twitter, accusing the platform of "interfering in the 2020
Presidential Election" and insisting "as president, I will not allow this to
happen." His campaign manager, Brad Parscale, said Twitter's "clear political
bias" had led the campaign to pull "all our advertising from Twitter months
ago." Twitter has banned political advertising since last November.
Trump didn't explain his threat Wednesday, and the call to expand regulation
appeared to fly in the face of long-held conservative principles on
Trump and his allies have long accused the tech giants in liberal-leaning
Silicon Valley of targeting conservatives on social media by fact-checking them
or removing their posts. The president's critics, meanwhile, have scolded the
platforms for allowing him to put forth false or misleading information that
could confuse voters.
Some Trump allies have questioned whether platforms like Twitter and
Facebook should continue to enjoy liability protections as "platforms" under
federal law or be treated more like publishers, which can face lawsuits over
The protections have been credited with allowing the unfettered growth of
the internet for more than two decades, but now some Trump allies are
advocating social media companies face more scrutiny.
"Big tech gets a huge handout from the federal government," Republican Sen.
Josh Hawley told Fox News Channel. "They get this special immunity, this
special immunity from suits and from liability that's worth billions of dollars
to them every year. Why are they getting subsidized by federal taxpayers to
censor conservatives, to censor people critical of China?"
Twitter's first use of a label on Trump's tweets comes as platforms gear up
to combat misinformation around the U.S. presidential election. Twitter and
Facebook have begun rolling out dozens of new rules to avoid a repeat of the
false postings about the candidates and the voting process that marred the 2016
The coronavirus pandemic has further escalated the platforms' response,
leading them to take actions against politicians a move they've long
resisted who make misleading claims about the virus.
Last month, Twitter began a "Get the Facts" label to direct social media
users to news articles from trusted outlets next to tweets containing
misleading or disputed information about the virus. Company leaders said the
new labels could be applied to anyone on Twitter and they were considering
using them on other topics.
Twitter has said it will decide internally when to use a label, and on which
tweets, and will draw from information curated from news outlets.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told Fox News on Wednesday his platform has "a
different policy, I think, than Twitter on this."
"I just believe strongly that Facebook shouldn't be the arbiter of truth of
everything that people say online," he said.
Meanwhile, Republicans were turning their fire on one of the Twitter
executives responsible for adding the fact checks: Yoel Roth, head of site
integrity. They're pointing to tweets he sent in 2016 and 2017 railing against
the president and his allies.
"From their bogus ?fact check' of @realDonaldTrump to their ?head of site
integrity' displaying his clear hatred towards Republicans, Twitter's blatant
bias has gone too far," tweeted Republican National Chairman Chair Ronna
Jack Balkin, a Yale University law professor and First Amendment expert,
said any attempt to regulate social media companies for the content on their
sites would likely need congressional input and approval and probably face
strong legal challenges.
"This is an attempt by the president to, as we used to say in basketball,
work the refs," he said. "He's threatening and cajoling with the idea that
these folks in their corporate board rooms will think twice about what they're
doing, so they won't touch him."