Mon, 13 Jul 2020

Fact-checking Trump tweets sparks blistering attack on Twitter

Voice of America
29 May 2020, 00:05 GMT+10

WHITE HOUSE - U.S. President Donald Trump will sign an executive order Thursday regarding social media platforms, after Twitter tagged a pair of his tweets with a fact-check warning.

Sources close to the White House say the president's executive order would require the Federal Communication Commission to clarify a section of the Communications Decency Act that largely exempts online companies like Twitter and Facebook from any legal liability from any content posted by their users.

The order also directs the White House Office of Digital Strategy to redouble its efforts to collect complaints of online censorship and submit them to the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department.

Trump Threatens Action Against Twitter President lashes out at social media platform after it put fact-check alert on pair of his tweets about mail-in ballots

Trump on Wednesday threatened to "strongly regulate" or shut down social media platforms. He said that Republicans feel that "Social Media Platforms totally silence conservative voices." He alleged that social media sites attempted -- and failed -- during the 2016 election to stifle conservatives' voices. "We can't let a more sophisticated version of that happen again," Trump wrote on Twitter.

On Tuesday, an unprecedented alert on the @realDonaldTrump tweets about mail-in balloting prompted the president to accuse Twitter of interference in this year's election and of "completely stifling" free speech.

"I, as President, will not allow it to happen," he concluded.

When those viewing Trump's flagged tweets on Tuesday clicked on the warning placed by Twitter, they were taken to a notification titled: Trump makes unsubstantiated claim that mail-in ballots will lead to voter fraud.

The alert, linked to stories from CNN and The Washington Post, and also included a fact box:

What you need to know

- Trump falsely claimed that mail-in ballots would lead to "a Rigged Election." However, fact-checkers say there is no evidence that mail-in ballots are linked to voter fraud.

- Trump falsely claimed that California will send mail-in ballots to "anyone living in the state, no matter who they are or how they got there." In fact, only registered voters will receive ballots.

- Though Trump targeted California, mail-in ballots are already used in some states, including Oregon, Utah and Nebraska.

"Social media companies have been struggling with the spread of misinformation and the need for fact checking for years, most prominently in the last presidential election," said Marcus Messner, the director of Virginia Commonwealth University's Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture.

"Twitter is right to flag incorrect information even when it involves tweets by President Trump," Messner told VOA.

The journalism professor noted the action "walks the fine between fact checking and being accused of censoring political speech through more drastic measures such as deleting posts and suspending accounts. But the question remains whether the fact tags with links to news articles will even be recognized by supporters of President Trump, who regularly dismiss all reporting from mainstream media. The effect of the fact tags in this heated partisan environment might be limited."

It is unclear what legal leverage Trump has over Twitter, which does not need any government licenses to operate as do radio or television stations.

A Twitter spokesperson said the company took the unprecedented action, based on its new policy announced earlier this month, because Trump's tweets "contain potentially misleading information about voting processes and have been labeled to provide additional context around mail-in ballots."

Twitter has also been facing calls to remove Trump's tweets that push an old conspiracy theory about the death of a congressional staffer.

The president has stopped short of directly accusing Joe Scarborough, a former Republican congressman, who hosts a morning program on the MSNBC cable channel of killing a woman in 2001 even though the politician was 1,300 kilometers away at the time and authorities ruled her death an accident.

Scarborough was once friendly with Trump but has become a fierce on-air critic of the president.

Timothy Klausutis, widower of Lori Klausutis, has written to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey claiming the president has violated the social media company's terms of service and "has taken something that does not belong to him-the memory of my dead wife-and perverted it for perceived political gain."

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