President Donald Trump on May 27 threatened to regulate or shut down social media companies for stifling conservative voices, a day after Twitter attached a warning to some of his tweets prompting readers to fact check the president’s claims. Without offering evidence, President Trump accused such platforms of bias, tweeting: “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.” Trump, a heavy user of Twitter with more than 80 million followers, added: “Clean up your act, NOW!!!! Trump’s threat to shut down platforms such as Twitter and Facebook was his strongest yet within a broader conservative backlash against Big Tech.
Twitter for the first time attached fact-check labels on President Donald Trump’s tweets after he made unsubstantiated claims on May 26 about mail-in voting. In a pair of early morning posts on May 27, the Republican president again blasted mail-in ballots. President Trump falsely claims that mail-in ballots lead to vote fraud and ineligible voters getting ballots. Twitter and Facebook declined to comment on Trump’s tweets. Asked during Twitter’s annual meeting why the company decided to affix the label to Trump’s mail-in ballot tweets, General Counsel Sean Edgett said decisions about handling misinformation are made as a group. “We have a group and committee of folks who take a look at these things and make decisions on what’s getting a lot of visibility and traction…,” he said. In recent years Twitter has tightened its policies amid criticism that its hands-off approach allowed fake accounts and misinformation to thrive. Tech companies have been accused of anti-competitive practices and violating user privacy. Apple, Google, Facebook, and Amazon face antitrust probes by federal and state authorities and a US congressional panel. The Internet Association, which includes Twitter and Facebook among its members, said online platforms do not have a political bias and they offer “more people a chance to be heard than at any point in history.”
It was not immediately clear whether President Donald Trump has the authority to shut down the companies. The American Civil Liberties Union said the First Amendment of the US Constitution limits any action President Trump could take to regulate social media platforms. Separately, a three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals in Washington upheld the dismissal of a suit brought by a conservative group and right-wing YouTube personality against Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Apple alleging they conspired to suppress conservative political views.
Republican and Democratic lawmakers, along with the Justice Department, have been considering changes to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a federal law largely exempting online platforms from legal liability for the material their user’s post. Such changes could expose tech companies to more lawsuits. Republican Senator Josh Hawley, a frequent critic of Big Tech companies and strong supporter of President Donald Trump, sent a letter to Twitter Chief Executive Jack Dorsey asking why the company should continue to receive legal immunity after “choosing to editorialize on President Trump’s tweets.”