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Everything we know about Trump’s war against Twitter and Facebook

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  • President Donald Trump is calling for the repeal of a law that enables social media companies to maintain open forums without being held legally responsible for users’ posts.
  • Trump signed an executive order on Wednesday cracking down on the law, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, after Twitter added fact-checking labels to Trump’s tweets that contained false information and violated Twitter’s terms of service.
  • He became more enraged after Twitter put a warning label on a tweet he posted on Friday that threatened to shoot protesters in Minnesota. The official White House account posted the same message, which Twitter also labeled with a warning.
  • Meanwhile, Facebook has declined to take action against the same messages posted by Trump, despite its policy against “statements advocating for high-severity violence.”
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

President Donald Trump has escalated a squabble with Twitter and other social media sites this week, leveraging threats to shut down or heavily regulate the platforms in response to perceived bias against him and other conservatives.

While Trump has been a critic of social media sites for years, his outrage reached a new pitch this week after Twitter decided to moderate his tweets for the first time on Tuesday. Since then, Trump has escalated calls to punish social media sites while simultaneously flouting Twitter’s rules.

Meanwhile, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has used the conflict to draw a distinction between Twitter and Facebook this week, making it increasingly clear that Facebook will not take any action to fact-check Trump or moderate his posts that violate Facebook’s rules.

Here’s a breakdown of Trump’s escalating feud with Twitter and what it could mean for the future of social media sites.

Twitter angered Trump Tuesday by fact-checking inaccuracies in his tweets for the first time ever.

Trump posted a series of tweets in recent weeks that falsely claimed Democrats are using mail-in voting to commit widespread voter fraud. 

Citing its policy against misinformation related to elections, Twitter made the unprecedented decision to fact-check those tweets, adding a disclaimer encouraging users to “Get the facts about mail-in ballots” with an exclamation point icon.

trump twitter fact check



Twitter


Trump quickly reacted, claiming in a tweet that Twitter was “interfering in the 2020 Presidential Election” and  “completely stifling FREE SPEECH.”

Trump and his allies ramped up their attacks on Twitter, targeting one employee who was previously critical of Trump.

The president widened his criticism Wednesday, claiming without evidence that social media platforms “silence conservative voices” and threatening to “strongly regulate, or close them down.”

Trump and his top advisers also focused their outrage on Yoel Roth, Twitter’s head of site integrity, after Roth’s past tweets resurfaced that described Trump as a “racist tangerine” and decried “NAZIS” in the White House.

White House aide Kellyanne Conway held up Roth’s past criticism of Trump on Wednesday as evidence that Twitter was biased against Trump, and Trump himself attacked Roth in a tweet Thursday, tagging Roth’s Twitter handle.

In a series of tweets Wednesday night, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey defended the fact-check policy and demanded critics “leave our employees out of this.” 

Trump signed an executive order Thursday listing grievances against social media companies and asking the FCC to crack down on them.

The executive order asks the FCC to target Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a law that allows social media sites to host open forums without being held liable for the posts users make as long as they make a good-faith effort to remove illegal content.

If Section 230 was repealed, social media sites would be opened up to countless lawsuits over the content of users’ posts on their platforms. Companies would have to choose between taking on expensive legal battles or shutting down their public forums entirely.

Trump’s executive order is muddy on the specifics of enforcing his crackdown, and legal and tech policy experts told Business Insider that it’s unlikely to hold up in court. A Democrat FCC commissioner said it “does not work,” but a Republican commissioner disagreed.

Twitter once again moderated Trump’s tweets on Friday, adding a warning label to a tweet calling for protesters in Minneapolis to be shot.

Trump responded to protests in Minneapolis over the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died in police custody. In a tweet Friday morning, Trump encouraged the military to use violence to contain the protests, stating that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”

Within two hours, Twitter placed a warning label on Trump’s tweet noting that it violates the site’s policy against glorifying violence. Twitter also blocked people from retweeting or liking the tweet.

The official White House twitter then reposted the same message, and Twitter quickly labeled that tweet with a warning as well. Trump responded with more calls to “repeal” or “revoke” Section 230.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg slammed Twitter’s decision this week and emphasized that Facebook will not fact-check or moderate Trump’s posts.

Zuckerberg appeared on Fox News and CNBC following Twitter’s move to tout Facebook’s own policy against fact-checking politicians’ posts, saying he doesn’t think “that Facebook or internet platforms in general should be arbiters of truth.”

Critics pointed out that Facebook has frequently acted as an arbiter of truth, including its policy requiring that users register with their real names and the decision to fact-check posts about coronavirus.

Facebook even added a fact-check label to an anti-Trump ad earlier in May because it claimed that “Trump bailed out Wall Street but not Main Street,” which one of Facebook’s third-party fact checkers deemed partly false. Facebook said it censored that ad — despite its policy against censoring politicians’ ads — because it was bought by a PAC and not a politician.

In any case, Zuckerberg’s attempts to draw a distinction between Twitter and Facebook did not spare his company from being targeted by Trump’s executive order, which called out four social media platforms by name: Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook.

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