Trump threatens to close social media firms to ‘protect conservative voices’

Donald Trump has threatened to “strongly regulate” or close down social media companies after Twitter linked to fact-checking pages on two of his tweets.

The US president tweeted that Republican supporters felt social media platforms “totally silence conservatives voices” and that he would seek to “close them down before we can ever allow this to happen”.

However, it is not clear whether he has authority.

The president would be likely to need the support of Congress or the Federal Communications Commission to take such action.

Mr Trump then referred to the 2016 election, and said: “We saw what they attempted to do, and failed, in 2016. We can’t let a more sophisticated version of that…Clean up your act, NOW!!!!”

The threats were the latest in a series of angry tweets directed at social media platforms in the last few days after Twitter linked two of his posts that falsely said mail-order votes were “fraudulent” to a fact-checking page detailing his unsubstantiated claim.

There is NO WAY (ZERO!) that Mail-In Ballots will be anything less than substantially fraudulent. Mail boxes will be robbed, ballots will be forged & even illegally printed out & fraudulently signed. The Governor of California is sending Ballots to millions of people, anyone…..

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 26, 2020

“Twitter is now interfering in the 2020 Presidential Election,” Mr Trump snapped back in a tweet after he had seen the links.

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He added: “They are saying my statement on Mail-In Ballots, which will lead to massive corruption and fraud, is incorrect, based on fact-checking by Fake News CNN and the Amazon Washington Post….”

Twitter and Facebook declined to comment on the president’s tweets, but shares in both companies fell following Wednesday’s posts.

The former has tightened policies in recent years following criticism over the negative effects misinformation can have when spread across social networks and left to its own devices.

Facebook, Apple, Google and Amazon are facing anti-trust investigations by the US Justice Department, the Federal Trade Commission, state attorneys general and a US congressional panel as the tech industry comes under accusations of anti-competitive practices.

Some of Mr Trump’s allies have alleged tech companies exert biases and have questioned whether some networks should be treated like publishers – allowing them to face lawsuits over content – rather than as platforms.

Jon Berroya, the Internet Association’s interim president and chief executive, has dismissed the idea that social networking platforms have a political bias, saying they offer “more people a chance to be heard than at any point in history”.

Mark Gibson

Graduates in Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 1990. Move to Los Angeles California in 2004. Specialized in Internet journalism.

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