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Trump threatens to "strongly regulate" Twitter after being fact-checked

The move marked a dramatic shift for the social network after it declined to take action over the Presidents tweets surrounding the Scarborough case

US President Donald Trump speaks about negotiations with pharmaceutical companies at an event in the Rose Garden at the White House. Reuters
US President Donald Trump speaks about negotiations with pharmaceutical companies at an event in the Rose Garden at the White House. Reuters

US President Donald Trump is threatening to regulate social media platforms such as Twitter after the site added a "fact check" label to his tweets about widespread voter fraud when using mail-in-ballots.

"Republicans feel that Social Media Platforms totally silence conservatives voices," Mr Trump tweeted on Wednesday, the second day in a row in which he lashing out at Twitter. Without elaborating, the US President threatened social media censorship and even shutting down such outlets.

"We will strongly regulate, or close them down, before we can ever allow this to happen," he went on saying, accusing them of attempting and failing to manipulate the 2016 election.

But it was unclear what action Mr Trump could take as freedom of expression is protected under US constitution and the First Amendment. His rhetoric is seen as a rallying cry for his conservative base that has long criticized Twitter and Facebook and accused them of a left-wing bias.

This illustration photo shows an editor in Los Angeles looking at the official Twitter account of US President Donald Trump on May 26, 2020, with two tweets by the president under which Twitter posted a link reading "Get the facts about mail-in ballots". AFP
This illustration photo shows an editor in Los Angeles looking at the official Twitter account of US President Donald Trump on May 26, 2020, with two tweets by the president under which Twitter posted a link reading "Get the facts about mail-in ballots". AFP

Mr Trump could establish a commission to review the alleged bias. His claim is in response to Twitter labelling two of his tweets on Tuesday that falsely indicate that mail-in ballots are fraudulent.

Under the tweets, Twitter posted a link which read "Get the facts about mail-in ballots" and which took users to a notice calling the claims "unsubstantiated", citing reporting by CNN, the Washington Post and other media.

"Trump falsely claimed that mail-in ballots would lead to 'Rigged Election'," the notice contended. "However, fact-checkers say there is no evidence that mail-in ballots are linked to voter fraud."

In a statement, Twitter said the content contains misleading information. "They contain potentially misleading information about voting processes and have been labelled to provide additional context around mail-in ballots," Twitter spokeswoman Katie Rosborough said.

The president has long used Twitter as a platform to spread his message but critics say he peddles abuse, conspiracy theories, false information and insults to his 80 million followers.

The move to label his tweets, however, marks the first time in its 14-year history that Twitter directly fact-checks a world leader.

Mr Trump also peddled a conspiracy theory on Tuesday, against a former Republican Congressman and MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, by spreading the rumour he murdered an aide, Lori Klausutis, despite no evidence of a crime.

An autopsy found that the aide died of a heart condition. Calls mounted to twitter – including from the aide's widower – to delete Mr Trump's tweets.

Klausutis' widower, Timothy Klausutis, wrote to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, pleading with him to delete Trump's "vicious lie."

"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," he wrote in a letter published by The New York Times. Twitter has refrained from doing so.

Mr Trump's approach is being criticised by both Democrats and Republicans. Republican Senator Mitt Romney tweeted on Wednesday slamming Mr Trump's accusations. "I know Joe Scarborough. Joe is a friend of mine. I don't know T.J. Klausutis. Joe can weather vile, baseless accusations but T.J.? His heart is breaking. Enough already," he said.

Updated: July 16, 2020 03:59 AM

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