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Trump promises ‘big action’ after threatening to shut down social networks

The threat follows Twitter adding a fact-check link underneath the president’s claims about postal voting fraud

Adam Smith
Wednesday 27 May 2020 16:33 BST
Twitter puts fact-check warning on Trump tweets

Donald Trump has threatened “big action” against Twitter after suggesting he could shut down social networks that fact check him.

“Twitter has now shown that everything we have been saying about them (and their other compatriots) is correct. Big action to follow!” the president tweeted.

Mr Trump’s latest threat came after he suggested that social networks would be regulated or shut down before they were able to “totally silence conservatives voices”.

On Twitter, the president continued: “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.”

The threat follows Twitter adding in a label underneath previous tweets from the president fact-checking his claims about mail-in ballots.

Mr Trump tweeted: “Mail boxes will be robbed, ballots will be forged & even illegally printed out & fraudulently signed” under a mail-in voting system and claimed that it would result in a “rigged election”.

The social media company added a blue link underneath that tweet which read “Get the facts about mail-in ballots.” Tapping the link would take users to a Twitter-curated moment which included articles from publications such as CNN and the Washington Post, as well as a series of tweets from journalists debunking the claim.

In a statement on the decision to add an unprecedented fact-checking label to Mr Trump’s tweets, Twitter said: “These Tweets (here and here) contain potentially misleading information about voting processes and have been labelled to provide additional context around mail-in ballots. This decision is in line with the approach we shared earlier this month.”

While voter fraud is slightly more common via postal voting than voting in-person, actual cases of voter fraud are very rare. Nevertheless, Mr Trump has often used the platform to spread false information about the US voting system, such as thousands of people being transported into states in order to vote for Hillary Clinton, Mr Trump’s election rival, in 2016.

Ms Clinton won 2.8 million more votes than Donald Trump, yet did not win the electoral college and so did not become president.

​“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. Whoever cheated the most would win. Likewise, Social Media. Clean up your act, NOW!!!!” Mr Trump tweeted.

The notion that right-wing voices are censored on social media is one that Republicans and Conservatives have often pushed. In 2018, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey did say that employees might have their own biases – which could be “more left-leaning” – but that such political views did not impact the company’s policy when it comes to content on its platform.

Such criticisms are currently being questioned as Mr Trump shared the same message on Facebook, where it received 170,000 reactions and was shared 17,000 times.

Facebook’s has a policy of removing content which misrepresents ways of voting or voter registration, but the company said it would not take action. In a statement, it said: “We believe that people should be able to have a robust debate about the electoral process, which is why we have crafted our policies to focus on misrepresentations that would interfere with the vote.”

Mr Trump also continues to tweet unverified information to his audience of 80 million followers. This includes Twitter’s refusal to delete tweets from the president that suggest an MSNBC host was responsible for the death of an employee.

Lori Klausutis, an employee of former Republican congressman Joe Scarborough, died following an accident, but Mr Trump has tweeted multiple messages suggesting otherwise.

Timothy Klausutis, the widower of the late Ms Klausutis, sent a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey asking for the company to remove the tweets. The company did not, instead saying that it was “deeply sorry about the pain these statements, and the attention they are drawing, are causing the family.”

Moreover, the Trump campaign team infamously benefited from their presence on social media in the light of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, when it was revealed that Facebook had staff who worked alongside Mr Trump’s campaign team to increase the number of donations to the campaign and the reach their posts received.

While the Clinton campaign team also worked with Facebook, the social media site had less influence over how the Democratic campaign team approached digital marketing than the Republican one.

Since then, Mr Trump has attacked social media platforms repeatedly, including Google and Facebook. In 2018, he accused them of “trying to silence” right-wing voices. Both Facebook and Google have denied this.

The following year, the White House announced it was launching a service where Americans could share stories of “political bias” from companies such as Facebook, Google and Twitter.

This news follows a recent report from the Wall Street Journal, which suggests that Facebook shelved research that would make its platform less politically polarising because the proposed changes would have disproportionately affected conservative users and publishers.

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