US Politics: Trump threatens regulatory action against social media platforms

Trump accused Twitter of interfering in the election
Trump has threatened action against social media
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Donald Trump has launched an attack on social media platforms after Twitter tagged some of his tweets with fact-check warnings. Tradefair brings you the latest from US politics...

"Twitter is now interfering in the 2020 presidential election."

- Donald Trump

Donald Trump has threatened to take action against social media platforms, saying his administration will "strongly regulate" or even "close them down" if they continue to "silence conservatives' voices".

It comes after Twitter added fact-check labels to the president's tweets for the first time. The tweets in question referred to mail-in ballots, which Trump has claimed increase the risk of voter fraud.

Jack Dorsey, the co-founder and CEO of Twitter, said the company wanted to make it clear where statements being made by the president are "in dispute" so "people can judge for themselves".

'Unsubstantiated'

Trump posted a message on Twitter on Tuesday (May 26) claiming there is "no way" that mail-in ballots "will be anything less than substantially fraudulent".

"Mail boxes will be robbed, ballots will be forged and even illegally printed out and fraudulently signed," he added.

The president went on to say the governor of California, Gavin Newsom, is sending postal ballots to "millions of people" across the state "no matter who they are or how they got there", and this will be followed up by "professionals telling all of these people, many of whom have never even thought of voting before, how, and for whom, to vote".

"This will be a rigged election. No way!" he concluded

Twitter responded to Trump's tweets by adding a label that invited users to "Get the facts about mail-in ballots". This linked to a page that described the president's claims as "unsubstantiated", according to news outlets like CNN and the Washington Post, which Trump has frequently attacked and labelled "fake news".

In the past, the social platform has faced criticism for failing to take action on some of Trump's most controversial tweets. The Republican leader frequently uses Twitter to attack his political rivals and promote conspiracy theories.

The company this month introduced a new policy designed to combat misleading information amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump turns on Twitter

Shortly after the fact-check label was added to his Twitter posts, the president tweeted that the social network is "now interfering in the 2020 presidential election" and "completely stifling free speech".

He also took aim at social media in general, claiming these platforms censor their more conservative users.

"We saw what they attempted to do, and failed, in 2016. We can't let a more sophisticated version of that happen again," he continued. "Just like we can't let large-scale mail-in ballots take root in our country. It would be a free for all on cheating, forgery and the theft of ballots."

It was then reported that the president was planning to sign an executive order targeting social media firms, although there was little detail about what the order would involve and how Trump plans to introduce new regulations without Congress passing legislation.

According to the Wall Street Journal, a draft order that Trump is set to sign today would aim to limit some of the legal protections that social media networks and online platforms receive under federal law.

'Arbiter of truth'

The dispute prompted a response from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who told Fox News his own company's policy was different to Twitter's on this subject.

He said Facebook "shouldn't be the arbiter of truth of everything that people say online", adding: "Private companies probably shouldn't be, especially these platform companies, shouldn't be in the position of doing that."

Responding to the president's threat to take action against social media giants and possibly even close them down, Zuckerberg said: "I think a government choosing to censor a platform because they're worried about censorship doesn't exactly strike me as the right reflex there."

Dorsey set out his own and his company's position on the subject, saying he is the person ultimately accountable for the firm's actions. He also insisted that Twitter would continue to "point out incorrect or disputed information about elections globally" and was not seeking to be 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," Dorsey tweeted.

Shares in both Twitter and Facebook fell during Wednesday's trading session. The tech-focused Nasdaq Composite was up by 0.77% yesterday, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 2.21% and the S&P 500 rose by 1.48%.

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