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Trump Turning Twitter Tantrum Into Executive Order

MRW_4445.jpg Date: 5 September 2018, 10:14 Source: MRW_4445.jpg Author: Mark Warner

The order, if implemented, could theoretically facilitate easier lawsuits against social media companies.

Years before US President Donald Trump took office, he connected with his base through Twitter. There, he became a vocal critic of former President Barack Obama, chastising him on topics ranging from golf outings to the Iranian nuclear deal. Although critics have protested Trump’s use of the social media platform for official communications, they have also argued the company should do more to censor tweets that are dishonest or misleading.

Policing the President

The company decided to act this week by labeling two of Trumps tweets regarding mail-in ballot with an exclamation point, telling users to “Get the facts about mail-in ballots,” The New York Times reported. Clicking the link directs users to a page dedicated solely to refuting Trump’s claims.

“We added a label to two @realDonaldTrump Tweets about California’s vote-by-mail plans as part of our efforts to enforce our civic integrity policy. We believe those Tweets could confuse voters about what they need to do to receive a ballot and participate in the election process,” the Twitter Safety team tweeted.

The page includes tweets by verified journalists and news outlets that provided information to contradict the president’s claims.

“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…..,” Trump said in the first of two tweets.

“….living in the state, no matter who they are or how they got there, will get one. That will be followed up with professionals telling all of these people, many of whom have never even thought of voting before, how, and for whom, to vote. This will be a Rigged Election. No way!”

Executive Order Previewed

Trump responded to Twitter’s labeling of his tweets by declaring he would craft an executive order. CNN obtained a copy of the draft which focuses on the Communications Decency Act. It reported Trump’s order will hinge on Section 230 of the law that gives websites broad control over moderating their platforms.

The draft of the order asserts that social media companies have not acted in good faith.

“In a country that has long cherished the freedom of expression, we cannot allow a limited number of online platforms to hand-pick the speech that Americans may access and convey online,” the draft reads. “This practice is fundamentally un-American and anti-democratic. When large, powerful social media companies censor opinions with which they disagree, they exercise a dangerous power.”

Trump also accuses Google, Twitter, and Facebook of assisting the Chinese government. The president’s campaign manager, Brad Parscale, immediately twisted Twitter’s labels into a campaign issue.

“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,” Parscale said. “Partnering with the biased fake news media ‘fact checkers’ is only a smoke screen Twitter is using to try to lend their obvious political tactics some false credibility.”

The order, if implemented, could theoretically facilitate easier lawsuits against social media companies. The Department of Justice would also be charged with investigating anti-conservative bias in coordination with state attorneys general and the FTC would be tasked with reporting on complaints. 

Trump’s efforts to regulate social media runs counter to precedent set by the US Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in 2018, however, POLITICO reported. Freedom Watch, a conservative organization, sued Apple, Google, Facebook, and Twitter, but the judges ruled against her as the First Amendment does not apply to private businesses.

Murder Accusation

Trump’s unproven assertions that mail-in votes enable voting fraud were not the only tweets that stirred controversy this month. On May 4, he suggested that MSNBC host and former Rep. Joe Scarborough murdered his aide, Lori Klausutis. 

““Concast” should open up a long overdue Florida Cold Case against Psycho Joe Scarborough. I know him and Crazy Mika well, used them beautifully in the last Election, dumped them nicely, and will state on the record that he is “nuts”. Besides, bad ratings! #OPENJOECOLDCASE,” Trump tweeted, referring to Comcast.

A week later, he revived the accusations tweeting, “When will they open a Cold Case on the Psycho Joe Scarborough matter in Florida. Did he get away with murder? Some people think so. Why did he leave Congress so quietly and quickly? Isn’t it obvious? What’s happening now? A total nut job!”

Klausutis died after falling and injuring her head due to an undiagnosed heart condition while working for Scarborough in 2001. Scarborough, however, was in Washington while she was at his office in Florida at the time of her death and authorities ruled out foul play.

Still, Trump doubled-down on the accusation on Tuesday. 

“A lot of people suggest that and hopefully someday people are going to find out,” Trump said. “It’s certainly a very suspicious situation. Very sad, very sad and very suspicious.”

Klausutis’ widower, Timothy, appealed directly to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey in a letter.

“I’m asking you to intervene in this instance because the President of the United States has taken something that does not belong to him — the memory of my dead wife  — and perverted it for perceived political gain,” Timothy wrote.

Twitter responded that it was “deeply sorry about the pain these statements” caused, but maintained it would not remove the tweets because they did not violate the platform’s policies, The New York Times reported. 

Scarborough also unsuccessfully lobbied Twitter to remove the tweets. Before the Wednesday airing of his “Morning Joe” program, Trump tweeted “Psycho Joe Scarborough is rattled, not only by his bad ratings but all of the things and facts that are coming out on the internet about opening a Cold Case,” the president tweeted. “He knows what is happening!”

Trump also denied Timothy’s wish for privacy saying, “I’m sure that, ultimately, they (the family) want to get to the bottom of it and it’s a very serious situation. As you know, there’s no statute of limitations. So, it would be a very good, very good thing to do.”

Daniel Davis

Daniel Davis is Managing Editor for The Osage County Herald-Chronicle in Kansas and also covers International news for Inside Over, a Milan-based global affairs publication. He graduated in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in political science. Outside of writing, he enjoys photography and one day hopes to return to video production. Learn more about him at his website danieldavis.la.

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