With Minneapolis on fire due to rioting caused by another senseless killing of an African American man… the United States passing 100,000 deaths due to the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic… and record unemployment that can rival the Depression, President Donald Trump has decided to focus his attention on… social media.
Twitter to be exact.
Trump reacted after Twitter added a warning phrase to two of his tweets that called mail-in ballots “fraudulent” and predicted “mail boxes will be robbed.” Under the tweets, there’s now a link reading “Get the facts about mail-in ballots” that guides users to a page with fact checks and news stories about Trump’s unsubstantiated claims.
Infuriated, the President took his battle with the social media giant to the next level yesterday by signing an executive order challenging liability protections. It specifically takes aim at social media companies like Twitter and Facebook and the law (Section 230) that protects them from lawsuits over their moderation practices or user-posted content.
Trump claims the fact checks were “editorial decisions” by Twitter equating it to taking political sides. political activism.
Social media companies are granted liability protection under Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act which enables online platforms to regulate content and removes most liability for user-generated content.
The new order directs executive branch agencies to ask independent rule-making agencies including the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission to study whether they can place new regulations on the companies — though experts express doubts much can be done without an act of Congress.
The order is likely to be overturned, for a myriad of reasons. Trump doesn’t have the authority to remove or change Section 230 without congressional approval, which he is unlikely to get, and tech companies are already drawing up lawsuits to fight the order.
The latest move by the most powerful man on earth is about blatantly politics more than substance. To be clear, Trump wants to rally his loyal supporters, who are already suspicious of the news and social media, by casting doubts upon the upcoming election.
Over the last four years, the public has had to endure Trump’s Twitter rants from the suspicious to the ridiculous. He has long accused tech giants of leaning toward the left.
“We’re fed up with it,” Trump said, claiming the order would uphold freedom of speech.
A similar executive order was previously considered by the administration but shelved over concerns it couldn’t pass legal muster and that it violated conservative principles on deregulation and free speech.
“They’ve had unchecked power to censor, restrict, edit, shape, hide, alter virtually any form of communication between private citizens or large public audiences,” Trump said of social media companies as he prepared to sign the order. “There is no precedent in American history for so small a number of corporations to control so large a sphere of human interaction.”
Trump accused Twitter of interfering in the 2020 presidential election” and declared “as president, I will not allow this to happen.” His campaign manager, Brad Parscale, said Twitter’s “clear political bias” had led the campaign to pull “all our advertising from Twitter months ago.” In fact, Twitter has banned political advertising since last November.
Late Wednesday, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted, “We’ll continue to point out incorrect or disputed information about elections globally.”
Dorsey added, “This does not make us an ‘arbiter of truth.’ Our intention is to connect the dots of conflicting statements and show the information in dispute so people can judge for themselves.”
“Donald Trump’s order is plainly illegal,” said Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat and advocate for internet freedoms. He is “desperately trying to steal for himself the power of the courts and Congress. … All for the ability to spread unfiltered lies.”
Trump incites violence in tweet, Twitter responds again
After a third night of protests following the death of George Floyd, a Black man who was filmed on video saying that he could not breathe as a white police officer used his knee to pin Floyd down, Trump tweeted, “these THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen. Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!”
His phrase “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” mirrors language used by a Miami police chief in the late 1960s in the wake of riots. Twitter, risking escalating the President’s ire, slapped a warning on his tweet.
Some users immediately reported the tweet as a rule violation.
Less than two-and-a-half hours later, Twitter took action. “This Tweet violates our policies regarding the glorification of violence based on the historical context of the last line, its connection to violence, and the risk it could inspire similar actions today,” the company said.
“We’ve taken action in the interest of preventing others from being inspired to commit violent acts, but have kept the Tweet on Twitter because it is important that the public still be able to see the Tweet given its relevance to ongoing matters of public importance.”
Last month, the social media giant began a “Get the Facts” label to direct social media users to news articles from trusted outlets next to tweets containing misleading or disputed information about the virus.
Democrats Respond to Trump’s “looting and shooting” tweet
NBC News is reporting that Democrats are slamming Trump for his “looting and shooting” tweet.
Joe Biden, the apparent 2020 Democratic presidential nominee, tweeted, “I will not lift the President’s tweet. I will not give him that amplification. But he is calling for violence against American citizens during a moment of pain for so many. I’m furious, and you should be too.”
The former vice president said that he planned to speak about the events in Minneapolis later in the day Friday.
Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., also tweeted, “When someone tells you who they are, believe them. The Impeached President is a violent white supremacist.”
“Trump’s behavior is growing increasingly unhinged, authoritarian, and outright violent and is designed to inflame and divide America further. This is absolutely disgusting and I reject his incitements with every fiber of my body,” tweeted Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J.
Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., tweeted a screenshot of the tweet flagged by Twitter along with one from early May in which Trump called protesters in Michigan over the state’s coronavirus stay-at-home order “very good people.”
“This is what a racist president looks like,” Beyer said about the statements.
Several Republican lawmakers, meanwhile, accused Twitter of censoring Trump’s comments even though they were not removed by the social media platform.
Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ga., said that Twitter was censoring Trump’s “clear attempt to prevent more violence in Minneapolis.”