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Trump executive order to target social media after Twitter fact-checked his false statements

President escalates social media war after threatening to 'close down' platforms over false claim warnings

Alex Woodward
New York
Wednesday 27 May 2020 19:51 BST
Twitter puts fact-check warning on Trump tweets

Donald Trump is expected to sign an executive order targeting social media following his threats to "strongly regulate" or "close down" platforms after Twitter fact-checked his false statements about voter fraud.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters that the order is "pertaining to social media" but did not provide details, according to reports.

The president has claimed without evidence that social media companies suppress conservative posts after Twitter attached a fact-checking notice to the president's messages that falsely claimed that mail-in ballots promote voter fraud.

Twitter labelled two posts in which the president called postal voting "fraudulent" and predicted that "mail boxes will be robbed" as "potentially misleading".

A link appears under the posts reads: "Get the facts about mail-in ballots". The link sends users to another Twitter page with a fact-checking articles from CNN and The Washington Post, among others.

In a statement, Twitter said that the president's tweets "contain potentially misleading information about voting processes and have been labelled to provide additional context around mail-in ballots."

Mr Trump has claimed that expanding voting by mail would negatively impact Republican candidates, suggesting that the party does not want to making voting more accessible to people who typically vote Democrat.

In an April interview with Fox News, he said: "If you ever agree to it, you'd never have a Republican elected in this country again."

The president has also directed his allies in Congress to "fight very hard when it comes to state wide mail-in voting", he wrote in a 8 April post.

"Democrats are clamouring for it," he said. "Tremendous potential for voter fraud, and for whatever reason, doesn't work out well for Republicans."

Last week, the president threatened to "hold up funding" to Michigan, a crucial battleground state as his campaign eyes his re-election in November, as the state mulls plans to expand absentee ballots amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In a post that has since been deleted, he falsely claimed that the state had sent out ballots "illegally" — in reality, the state had mailed out ballot applications, not the ballots themselves.

"Breaking: Michigan sends absentee ballots to 7.7 million people ahead of Primaries and the General Election," he wrote. "This was done illegally and without authorization by a rogue Secretary of State. I will ask to hold up funding to Michigan if they want to go down this Voter Fraud path!"

He later deleted the post but sent out another that afternoon, falsely claiming that the applications were sent "illegally".

The Michigan Department of State's Bureau of Election said it would send 6.4 million registered voters living in the state applications to vote by mail in the upcoming elections, along with the 1.3 million permanent absent voters who already had the option to apply for absentee voting.

In a statement, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said: "By mailing applications, we have ensured that no Michigander has to choose between their health and their right to vote. ... Voting by mail is easy, convenient, safe, and secure, and every voter in Michigan has the right to do it."

She said that "mailing applications to all registered voters is one of the ways that we are ensuring Michigan's elections will continue to be safe, accurate and secure."

Mr Trump himself voted by mail in the Florida primaries in February. He also has voted absentee in New York during the 2018 midterm elections.

Ms McEnany also has voted by mail, nearly a dozen times, records show, despite her despite her continued defence of the president's insistence that mail-in voting leads to fraud.

The president also has used his massive social media platform to spread conspiracy theories accusing MSNBC host Joe Scarborough of having something to do with the death of a former staffer in 2001.

Twitter said it will not remove the posts, despite pleas from Timothy Klausutis, the widower of the late Ms Klausutis, but the company said it was considering measures to label misleading posts or take similar measures to identify misinformation.

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