The US President is now expected to sign an executive order aimed at social media companies Thursday, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters Wednesday evening.
The move could threaten punishment against big tech players such as Facebook, Google and Twitter over allegations of political bias.
The announcement revived fears within the online industry that the Trump administration will target a 1996 statute that protects the companies from lawsuits.
The statute has helped tech giants earn many billions of dollars from users’ tweets, posts, likes, photos and videos, with limited legal liability, while giving them broad leeway to remove material they consider “objectionable.” But Trump and his supporters contend they are abusing that power.
The US president tweeted that Republican supporters felt social media platforms “totally silence conservatives voices” and that he would seek to “close them down before we can ever allow this to happen”.
.@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
However, it is not clear whether he has authority.
The president would be likely to need the support of Congress or the Federal Communications Commission to take such action.
Trump and his supporters have been attacking Twitter since the social network labelled a pair of his tweets with a fact-checking notice for the first time on Tuesday, and the president pledged Wednesday that “big action” will follow.
Twitter acted after Trump had alleged without evidence that mail-in ballots are likely to be “substantially fraudulent,” in tweets that the company said contained misleading information about the electoral process. The move triggered an array of rebukes from Republicans, including Trump.
“Big Tech is doing everything in their very considerable power to CENSOR in advance of the 2020 Election. If that happens, we no longer have our freedom,” Trump tweeted late Wednesday night to his 80 million Twitter followers, after sounding the same theme more than 14 hours earlier. “I will never let it happen! They tried hard in 2016, and lost. Now they are going absolutely CRAZY. Stay Tuned!!!”
Early Wednesday morning, he had vowed to “strongly regulate” biased social media companies, or even “close them down.”
President Trump will sign an executive order on social media companies, White House officials said after Trump threatened to shut down websites he accused of stifling conservative voices https://t.co/MUC5ZHC7LM pic.twitter.com/9K9t0VusL4
— Reuters (@Reuters) May 28, 2020