Trump threatens social media shutdown amid checks from Twitter

President Donald Trump
President Donald Trump

The tension between social networking platform, Twitter, and United States President, Donald Trump, escalated on Wednesday when Mr Trump reacted angrily to a fact-check warning placed on some of his tweets.

Against the backdrop of the development, Mr Trump took to his Twitter page to announce threats of regulation and a possible shutdown of social networking platforms.

“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,” Mr Trump wrote in a tweet on Wednesday morning.

The Silicon Valley company had on Tuesday added the fact-check label to two tweets in which Mr Trump claimed that mail-in ballots were “fraudulent” and would lead to “a rigged election”. A link appears beneath the tweets which reads “Get the facts about mail-in ballots”, directing users to a page with news contents, tweets and a fact box that suggest the claim is unsubstantiated.

The U.S President has battled publicly with state governors who want to encourage postal voting as a way to allow more people to vote during the coronavirus pandemic.

Earlier this month, Mr Trump said he would cut off federal funding from Michigan and Nevada if the Democratic governors in both states went ahead with plans to encourage mail-in ballots amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Election strategists have long believed that postal voting helps Democrats, whose voters have tended to be less engaged and less likely to turn out. However, recent studies suggest that has now reversed thanks to the changing nature of both parties’ electorates.

The new move by Twitter, which marks the first time the social networking company has sought to check the president’s use of the platform to broadcast controversial statements, comes six months ahead of the U.S. presidential election.

Pushback

The new move is seen as calculated towards influencing the campaign season ahead of the 2020 presidential elections. Expectedly, it drew an immediate pushback from Mr Trump and his re-election campaign.

In his reaction, Brad Parscale, the head of Mr Trump’s presidential campaign, accused Twitter of showing ‘clear political bias.’

He claimed: “We always knew that Silicon Valley would pull out all the stops to obstruct and interfere with President Trump getting his message through to voters.” But Twitter said: “These tweets . . . contain potentially misleading information about voting processes and have been labelled to provide additional context around mail-in ballots.”

The media company has faced longstanding challenges with the United States’ president and one of its most popular, influential users. Twitter has been criticised for failing to crack down on tweets from the president which critics claim appeared to violate Twitter guidelines, while Mr Trump and other conservative figures have accused the platform of censorship.

Last year, reports said Twitter would attach warnings to tweets from prominent political leaders if they were deemed to break the company’s policies on threats and harassment. It was criticised for not doing so in earlier in the year.

On Tuesday, the company said the new decision was “in line” with measures announced by the company earlier this month to add labels containing additional context to “disputed or misleading” coronavirus-related claims, as well as other confusing claims.

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Mr Trump seeks re-election in the November 3 presidential poll. He hopes to slug it out with presumptive Democratic 2020 rival, Joe Biden.



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