Twitter quietly added fact-check links to two of Donald Trump’s tweets last night, and the president responded with the only way he knows how: nuke! the! site!
At 7 am this morning, Trump complained (on Twitter) that social media platforms “silence” conservatives and threatened that “we will strongly regulate or close them down.”
The fact-check links appear as small warning labels beneath tweets claiming that mail-in ballots are a “fraudulent” enabler of a “Rigged Election” with the phrase “get the facts.” Click through, and you’ll find a lengthy thread of refutes from Trump’s most detested news outlets, including CNN, NBC News, and the Washington Post, as well as tweets from journalists and fact-checkers. Twitter also supplies its own bulleted list of debunked claims.
Republicans feel that Social Media Platforms totally silence conservatives voices. We will strongly regulate, or close them down, before we can ever allow this to happen. We saw what they attempted to do, and failed, in 2016. We can’t let a more sophisticated version of that….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 27, 2020
A few hours later, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned government shutdowns of social media companies.
The U.S. stands against, and will not tolerate, government-imposed Internet shutdowns and other forms of censorship during or after this pandemic. We join @FO_Coalition’s call to promote and protect #InternetFreedom at all times.
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) May 27, 2020
While Twitter has never directly stepped in to do something about Trump’s lies and harassment, the platform in March complaining that the video was “100% real, 100% authentic,” and “100% unedited.” They asked Twitter to retaliate against Biden.
Notably, Twitter promised yesterday to change its policy to address Trump’s wild conspiracy-mongering about a deceased woman in order to accuse Morning Joe co-host Joe Scarborough of murder. The late woman’s husband pleaded with the platform to remove Trump’s “bile and misinformation” as it would for any civilian user. As of this morning, Trump is still spewing lies about her death with immunity.
Even as Facebook and Twitter have refused time and again to moderate Trump’s harassment, falsehoods, and even threats of war, conservatives have bullied social media companies with an imaginary “anti-conservative bias.” In February, the Washington Post reported that Facebook appears to have bent to Republican wrath with lax policies on misinformation. Last year, Trump went so far as to draft an executive order commanding the FCC and FTC to “regulate” social media platforms for the supposed bias.
As many have pointed out, Congress would need to be involved in regulation. Although, according to FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, he could shut down wireless communications — and, therefore, a social media network — if he proclaims a disaster, national emergency, “state of public peril,” or “war or threat of war.”
The greatest obstacle would be prying Twitter from his own cold dead fingers, but damned if he won’t try.