US President Donald Trump is now poised to sign an executive order targeting social-media firms, the White House has warned, in what would be a significant escalation of his dispute with Twitter.
Twitter on Wednesday applied a fact-checking warning to one of the President’s tweets for the first time, as part of its new policy on misleading information.
But Trump reacted angrily and slammed Twitter’s decision in a number of tweets, and accused the micro-blogging platform of “completely stifling free speech.”
Twitter had decided to apply the warning, which is a blue exclamation mark underneath Trump’s tweet that contained unsubstantiated claims about postal voting in the US, ahead of the US presidential election scheduled for 3 November 2020.
Twitter suggests that readers “get the facts about mail-in ballots”.
“….Twitter is completely stifling FREE SPEECH, and I, as President, will not allow it to happen!” Trump subsequently tweeted.
He later threatened to close down social networking firms.
“Republicans feel that Social Media Platforms totally silence conservatives voices,” he added in a later tweet. “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….”
And now it seems he is prepared to go one step further and sign an executive order against social networking firms.
According to Reuters, which has seen Trump’s draft executive order, it will seek a review of a law that has long protected Twitter, Facebook and Google from being responsible for the material posted by their users.
On Wednesday, White House officials said Trump will sign an executive order on social media companies on Thursday.
Essentially, the executive order would require the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to propose and clarify regulations under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a federal law largely exempting online platforms from legal liability for the material their users post.
Changing this law could potentially expose tech firms to more lawsuits about material posted online.
The order reportedly asks the FCC to examine whether actions related to the editing of content by social media companies should potentially lead to the platform forfeiting its protections under section 230.
The order reportedly requires the agency to look at whether a social media platform uses deceptive policies to moderate content and if its policies are inconsistent with its terms of service.
The draft order also states that the White House Office of Digital Strategy will re-establish a tool to help citizens report cases of online censorship.
Called the White House Tech Bias Reporting Tool, it will collect complaints of online censorship and submit them to the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Reuters said.
It requires the FTC to then “consider taking action”, look into whether complaints violate the law, develop a report describing such complaints and make the report publicly available.
And it seems that federal spending on online advertising will also be reviewed by US government agencies to ensure there are no speech restrictions by the relevant platform.
Twitter had clarified its policies in October last year about potentially misleading tweets from world leaders and pubic figures, but some felt it had been slow to act on some of the tweets from the US President.
It is fair to say that President Trump has a love-hate relationship with Twitter.
The platform is his preferred method of speaking to the public, as it bypasses the mainstream media which he regards as hostile to him and his campaign.
He was angered in October 2019 when Twitter decided to ban all political adverts around the world on its platform.
And in April 2019, Trump met with Twitter CEO and co-founder Jack Dorsey in the White House.
That meeting was awkward for both parties, as President Trump had just criticised the platform, claiming it was discriminating against him and other republicans, after the number of his followers fluctuated.
And a week before that meeting in the White House, Jack Dorsey had said he wanted to move “away from outrage and mob behaviour and towards productive, healthy conversation” on the platform.
The same platform that President Trump repeatedly uses to attack and criticise his opponents.
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