Trump takes on Twitter, threatens ‘big action’
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump, the historically prolific tweeter of political barbs and blasts, threatened social media companies with new regulation or even shuttering on Wednesday after Twitter added fact checks to two of his tweets. He turned to his Twitter account — where else? — to tweet his threats.
The president can’t unilaterally regulate or close the companies, and any effort would likely require action by Congress. His administration has shelved a proposed executive order empowering the Federal Communications Commission to regulate technology companies, citing concerns it wouldn’t pass legal muster. But that didn’t stop Trump from angrily issuing strong warnings.
Tech giants “silence conservative voices,” he claimed on Twitter early Wednesday. “We will strongly regulate, or close them down, before we can ever allow this to happen.” Later, also on Twitter, he threatened, “Big Action to follow.”
Executive order planned: Press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters that Trump would sign an executive order relating to social media companies but provided no details. White House strategic communications director Alyssa Farah said Trump would sign it Thursday.
In his tweet, he repeated his unsubstantiated claim — which sparked his latest showdown with Silicon Valley — that expanding mail-in voting “would be a free for all on cheating, forgery and the theft of Ballots.”
There was no immediate reaction from Twitter or other social media companies to the president’s threats.
Twitter’s decision to mark the president’s tweets regarding mail-in balloting came as the president was sparking another social media firestorm, continuing to stoke a debunked conspiracy theory accusing MSNBC host Joe Scarborough of killing a former staffer. Prominent Republicans, including Rep. Liz Cheney and Sen. Mitt Romney, urged Trump to drop the attack — which has not been marked with a fact check by the social media company.
Trump and his campaign had lashed out at the company Tuesday after Twitter added a warning phrase to two Trump tweets that called mail-in ballots “fraudulent” and predicted that “mail boxes will be robbed,” among other things. Under the tweets, there is now a link reading “Get the facts about mail-in ballots” that guides users to a Twitter page with fact checks and news articles about Trump’s unsubstantiated claims.
Trump replied on Twitter, accusing the platform of “interfering in the 2020 Presidential Election” and insisting that “as president, I will not allow this to happen.” His 2020 campaign manager, Brad Parscale, said Twitter’s “clear political bias” had led the campaign to pull “all our advertising from Twitter months ago.” Twitter has banned all political advertising since last November.
Trump did not explain his threat Wednesday, and the call to expand regulation appeared to fly in the face of long-held conservative principles on deregulation.
Trump and his allies have long accused the tech giants in liberal-leaning Silicon Valley of targeting conservatives on social media by fact-checking them or removing their posts. The president’s critics, meanwhile, have scolded the platforms for allowing him to put forth false or misleading information that could confuse voters.