In a statement on his Twitter account, President Trump threatened to regulate or shut down social media platforms, accusing them of being unfair to Republicans. The president made the statements early Wednesday morning following a previous tweet claiming that mail-in ballots for the upcoming election would result in voter fraud. Twitter attached a fact-check to these tweets, citing sources that questioned the link between mail-in ballots and voter fraud.
The conflict began when California Governor Gavin Newsom signed an order to expand mail-in ballots throughout the state this November. In response, Trump tweeted on Tuesday, May 26, criticizing the move.
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
“There is NO WAY (ZERO!) that Mail-in Ballots will be anything less than substantially fraudulent,” Trump’s tweet read. “Mail boxes will be robbed, ballots will be forged & even illegally printed out and fraudulently signed.”
Trump made the claim without any evidence to back up his statement. The tweet was subsequently tagged by Twitter with a link prompting users to “[g]et the facts about mail-in ballots.” The link leads to a statement contradicting Trump’s claims.
“These claims are unsubstantiated, according to CNN, Washington Post and others,” the statement reads. “Experts say mail-in ballots are very rarely linked to voter fraud.”
Later that day, the president accused Twitter of interfering with the presidential election.
“Twitter is completely stifling FREE SPEECH, and I, as President, will not allow it to happen!,” tweeted Trump.
.@Twitter is now interfering in the 2020 Presidential Election. 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….— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 26, 2020
The next day, the president tweeted a criticism of social media in general, accusing platforms conspiring to silence conservative voices.
Republicans feel that Social Media Platforms totally silence conservatives voices. We will strongly regulate, or close them down, before we can ever allow this to happen. We saw what they attempted to do, and failed, in 2016. We can’t let a more sophisticated version of that….— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 27, 2020
“We will strongly regulate, or close them down, before we can ever allow this to happen,” the tweet read.
A Strong Response
Critics have responded strongly to Trump’s tweets, with many pointing out the constitutional barriers against such regulation. Shortly after the statements were posted, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted, “The U.S. stands against, and will not tolerate, government-imposed Internet shutdowns and other forms of censorship during or after this pandemic.”
Similarly, a spokesperson for the US State Department tweeted, “Governments that restrict internet access deprive their citizens of the information they need to stay safe,” according to The Daily Mail.
However, Trump’s administration has stood by the statements. White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway singled out Twitter’s head of Site Integrity, Yoel Roth, as being biased against the president.
“This guy is constantly attacking Trump voters, Trump, Mitch McConnell, you name it,” Conway said in an interview on Fox & Friends. “It’s horrible the way he looks at people who should otherwise have a free and clear platform on Twitter.”
The Daily Mail reports that Roth has shared critical statements about the administration on Twitter. These include accusations of racism, comparisons to Nazis, and specifically, comparisons between Conway and Nazi propagandist Josef Goebbels.
In the wake of the president’s statements, his criticism of social media platforms has continued with promises of unspecified measures to be taken.
“Twitter has now shown that everything we have been saying about them (and their other compatriots) is correct,” he said in a tweet. “Big action to follow!”
Trump Regulate Social Media — Sources
The Daily Mail – “Donald Trump threatens to ‘strongly regulate or close’ social media for trying to ‘silence conservative voices’ after Twitter fact-checks two of his ‘misleading’ tweets”
The Daily Mail – “Who checks Twitter’s POTUS fact-checker? Biased head of Twitter’s ‘Site Integrity’ has previously called the President ‘a racist tangerine’, the administration ‘Nazis’ and compared Kellyanne to Joseph Goebbels”