Donald Trump threatens to 'strongly regulate or close' social media for trying to 'silence conservative voices' after Twitter fact-checks two of his 'misleading' tweetsby Katelyn Caralle, U.s. Political Reporter
- President Donald Trump warned Wednesday morning that his administration will begin to regulate and shut down social media sites – like Twitter and Facebook
- He tweeted that the GOP feels these sites 'totally silence conservatives voices'
- 'We will strongly regulate, or close them down, before we can ever allow this to happen,' the president asserted
- The assertion came as Twitter flagged two of the president's tweets about mail-in ballots as 'misleading' on Tuesday
- Trump claimed Twitter is 'stifling free speech' and accused it of interfering with the 2020 Presidential election
- 'I, as President, will not allow it to happen!' he threatened on Tuesday
- Trump has continued to allege that widespread voter fraud would occur if states sent all Americans mail-in ballots
- Trump mailed in his ballot to vote in Florida last month
- Twitter said Trump's claims of widespread voter fraud were 'unsubstantiated,' as there's 'no evidence' mailed ballots would lead to fraud
Donald Trump demanded Wednesday that social media platforms 'clean up your act' as he warned his administration will begin to regulate and even shutter such websites after Twitter, for the first time ever, fact-checked his tweets.
He lamented in the Twitter thread that conservatives are being silenced and disproportionately regulated on social media websites like Twitter and Facebook as Twitter issued 'misleading' warning labels on two of his tweets about mail-in voting this week.
'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,' the president posted to his Twitter Wednesday morning. 'We saw what they attempted to do, and failed, in 2016. We can't let a more sophisticated version of that happen again.'
The warning was issued after Trump reacted with fury to having two of his tweets labelled as misleading, with links to news articles suggesting they were false attached.
But in contrast, on the same day Twitter's Jack Dorsey refused to take down the president's tweets where he touted a conspiracy theory that MSNBC host Joe Scarborough was involved in the death of a staffer when he was a Republican U.S. congressman from Florida.
Twitter users, including Republicans, did not react kindly to the president suggesting increasing regulations on social media websites.
Prominent conservative Margot Cleveland, whose work has been featured in several right leaning news publications, weighed in claiming any private organization has the right to decide what speech can and cannot be featured on their platform.
'Pro Tip: Saying Twitter is violating your constitutional right to free speech or your First Amendment rights is wacko b/c Twitter ain't the government,' Cleveland wrote Wednessday morning. 'Saying Twitter is 'stifling free speech' isn't. Powerful private organizations can & do stifle speech.'
Screenwriter Javier Grillo-Marxuachare responded to Trump's tweet, pointing out the difference in opinion from his Party affiliation and his view on increasing regulations on social media companies. 'You proposing regulation of big business? what are you... A SOCIALIST?' he wrote.
Trump critic and Republican George Conway, who is married to White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway, reposted a message from the State Department spokeswoman that contradicted the president's tweet.
'The State Department's spokesperson, a couple of hours after the President of the United States suggested that the government may 'strongly regulate' social media platforms or 'close them down,' Conway wrote as a lead up.
Morgan Ortagus tweeted from the official State Department spokesperson account: 'Governments that restrict internet access deprive their citizens of the information they need to stay safe. #FreedomOfExpression both online and offline is vital, especially during COVID-19. @StateDept is proud to be an active member of the @FO_Coalition.'
Kellyanne Conway criticized Twitter for flagging the tweets, lashing out at Yoel Roth, Twitter's head of Site Integrity, during an interview with Fox & Friends Wednesday.
She even cited his Twitter handle on live television to make sure Republicans knew where to direct their complaints.
'This guy is constantly attacking Trump voters, Trump, Mitch McConnell, you name it. He's the head of integrity at Twitter,' Conway lamented.
'It's horrible the way he looks at people who should otherwise have a free and clear platform on Twitter.'
Trump also re-asserted his flagged tweets' theme in his Wednesday morning tweet: 'Just like we can't let large scale Mail-In Ballots take root in our Country.'
Trump views that mail-in ballots will increase the chances of voter fraud – and benefit Democrats in 2020.
'It would be a free for all on cheating, forgery and the theft of Ballots,' Trump insisted. 'Whoever cheated the most would win. Likewise, Social Media. Clean up your act, NOW!!!!'
The tweeted warning came the morning after the president accused Twitter of interfering in the 2020 Presidential election after the social media site began fact-checking his tweets.
Earlier in the day on Tuesday, the president suggested on Twitter that California's mail-in balloting initiative would lead to substantial voter fraud in the November general election.
'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,' Trump wrote Tuesday morning.
He then insinuated that non-citizens would be able to obtain ballots.
'The Governor of California is sending Ballots to millions of people, anyone living in the state, no matter who they are or how they got there, will get one,' he continued in the Twitter rant. '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.'
Trump ended the two-tweet tirade by saying, 'This will be a Rigged Election.'
'No way!' said Trump, who votes in Florida absentee.
The president used a mail-in ballot to vote in the Florida primary last month – a move his administration has defended since he cannot show up for in-person voting while living in Washington, D.C.
TWITTER'S TRUMP 'FACT CHECK': THE UNANSWERED QUESTIONS
Twitter labeled two linked Trump's tweets as 'misleading' Tuesday, their first ever action against the president on the platform.
They added a link to a series of articles from outlets including CNN and the Washington Post - but put their own summary at the top of the page with Twitter's bullet-point version of why they labeled the tweet misleading.
But the company left a series of unanswered questions about the process of fact-checking including:
- Why were these tweets selected?
- Who in Twitter decided they were 'misleading'?
- Are all of Trump's tweets checked for being misleading?
- How can the ballot claims be labeled misleading while a conspiracy theory that Joe Scarborough murdered a women who died of natural causes while he was hundreds of miles away does not?
- Is there a complaints process or did Twitter make the decision to label the tweets itself?
- If it did it itself, who actually decided?
- How does someone who has been labeled misleading appeal?
- Twitter claims simply to offer a platform to its users, and not to be a 'publisher' like a traditional newspaper or broadcaster. But they summary of its factcheck is an editorial product - so who wrote the claims at the top of the fact-checking page and how can they be held accountable?
- Are people subject to labeling for being 'misleading' given advance notice to allow them to delete their tweets?
- Will Trump's tweets about being factchecked also be factchecked?
By Tuesday afternoon, Twitter had flagged the tweets with a blue exclamation mark prompting users to 'get the facts about mail-in ballots.'
Another page on the social media site called Trump's tweets 'unsubstantiated,' according to fact-checkers from CNN, Washington Post and other news outlets.
'These tweets contain potentially misleading information about voting processes and have been labeled to provide additional context around mail-in ballots,' a statement from Twitter read.
Following the move from Twitter, Trump used the social media site he is attacking to decry its decision to label his tweets 'misleading' and accused them of 'stifling free speech.'
He threatened the tech giant, stating he wouldn't allow it to continue.
'@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,' Trump wrote Tuesday night.
'Twitter is completely stifling FREE SPEECH, and I, as President, will not allow it to happen!' he asserted.
Trump's 2020 campaign was quick to slam the move.
'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. 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. There are many reasons the Trump campaign pulled all our advertising from Twitter months ago, and their clear political bias is one of them,' campaign manager Brad Parscale said in a statement.
The move to fact-check Trump on Tuesday came the same day Twitter refused to delete tweets written by the president where he suggested 'Morning Joe' host Joe Scarborough was involved in the death of one of his congressional aides who worked for him in 2001.
The widower of the woman who died, Lori Klausutis, sent a letter to Jack Dorsey begging for Trump's tweets about this conspiracy theory to be deleted.
As Timothy Klausutis recounts in the letter, Lori had an undiagnosed heart condition and fell and hit her head on her desk at work, where her body was found the next morning.
While Twitter wouldn't budge on deleting Trump's tweets, the site had promised to be more proactive about labeling factually inaccurate content.
'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. He knows what is happening!' Trump tweeted Wednesday morning.
For weeks Trump has said that states, not wanting to expose the voting public to COVID-19, shouldn't be implementing full-scale mail-in balloting plans.
The president has drawn a distinction between absentee ballots, which he said can be used for special purposes, and governors sending every American voter a ballot to send back in.
'I have to do an absentee because I'm voting in Florida and I happen to be president and I live in that beautiful house over there that's painted white,' he said in the Rose Garden Tuesday.
Trump's tweets came after the Republican National Committee and two other GOP groups filed a lawsuit Sunday against California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who had signed an executive order to use mail-in ballots for the November election.
'In California the governor, I hear, is sending millions of ballots all over the state. Millions, to anybody. People that aren't citizens, illegals, anybody that walks in California is going to get a ballot,' Trump said at the White House Tuesday.
'We are not going to destroy this county by allowing things like that to happen. We're not destroying our country,' he added.
Republicans long have been suspicious that making voting easier would elect more Democrats. Young people, for instance, tend to tilt more Democratic, but are also less likely to vote in-person.
California was the first state in the country to commit to sending mail-in ballots to all registered voters for the November election, a move responding to the coronavirus pandemic.
'Democrats continue to use this pandemic as a ploy to implement their partisan election agenda, and Governor Newsom's executive order is the latest direct assault on the integrity of our elections,' Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in a statement.
The RNC said that voting by mail creates an opportunity for fraud.
Republicans, including Trump, have also claimed that mail-in voting is susceptible to rigging.
'No state that conducts all-mail elections automatically mails ballots to inactive voters because it invites fraud, coercion, theft, and otherwise illegitimate voting,' it added.
The lawsuit asks for Newsom's order to be barred as unlawful and was filed by the RNC, the National Republican Congressional Committee, and the California Republican Party.
Numerous studies have found little evidence of voter fraud connected to voting by mail. Democrats say it is necessary to counter health risks from the coronavirus by helping to prevent crowds at polling places.
Last Wednesday, Trump denounced plans to expand voting by mail in Michigan and Nevada, two key swing states.
He briefly threatened to withhold federal funding for the two states but dropped the warning after an avalanche of criticism from Democrats.
Since winning the 2016 election via the Electoral College, but losing the popular vote to Hillary Clinton, the president has alleged that 'millions' of people voted illegally in California and that's how Clinton had such an edge.
There was no evidence of wide-scale voter fraud in the 2016 presidential election.
Twitter REFUSES to delete Donald Trump's tweets accusing Joe Scarborough of murder despite grieving widower of dead staffer pleading with Jack Dorsey to remove them - but platform does apologize for 'pain' they are causing
- Timothy Klausutis, the husband of the late Lori Klausutis, has asked Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to delete President Trump's tweets about his wife
- Lori Klausutis was a Congressional aide for Rep. Joe Scarborough and died after hitting her head at the office in 2001 at the age of 28
- Lori Klausutis had an undiagnosed heart condition, but Trump has tried to push a conspiracy theory that she was murdered by the now 'Morning Joe' host
Twitter refuses to take down President Trump's tweet that accuse 'Morning Joe's' Joe Scarborough of murder.
CNN reported that the company wouldn't be pulling down the president's tweets about the death of Scarborough's late staffer, Lori Klausutis, even after her husband Timothy Klausutis wrote a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey asking they be removed.
'Please delete those tweets,' Timothy Klausutis pleaded. 'My wife deserves better.'
A spokesperson for Twitter said the company won't be pulling down the president's tweets on Lori Klausutis' death, which Trump continued to write Tuesday morning.
'We are deeply sorry about the pain these statements, and the attention they are drawing, are causing the family,' the spokesperson said. 'We've been working to expand existing product features and policies so we can more effectively address things like this going forward, and we hope to have those changes in place shortly.'
The New York Times obtained a copy of Timothy Klausutis' letter.
As Timothy Klausutis recounts in the letter, Lori Klausutis had an undiagnosed heart condition and fell and hit her head on her desk at work, where her body was found the next morning.
Lori Klausutis was 28-years-old when she died in 2001, and was a staffer in the Florida office of Rep. Joe Scarborough, who resigned from Congress later that year.
President Trump and Donald Trump Jr. have repeated a conspiracy theory that Scarborough, now the host of MSNBC's 'Morning Joe,' was responsible for her death.
He was in Washington at the time.
Scarborough, while a Republican in Congress, has become extremely critical of the Trump administration.
In a May 12 tweet, the president wrote, '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,' Trump tweeted.
'Why did he leave Congress so quietly and quickly? Isn't it obvious? What's happening now? A total nut job!' the president added.
In a May 4 tweet Trump wrote, ''Concast' should open up a long overdue Florida Cold Case against Psycho Joe Scarborough,' he said, referring to NBC's parent company, Comcast.
'I know him and Crazy Mika well used them beautifully in the last Election, dumped them nicely, and will state on the record thathe is 'nuts.' Besides, bad ratings!' the presidenet continued, referencing Scarborough's co-host and wife Mika Brzezinski.
When MSNBC's public relations tweeted that presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden was going to come on 'Morning Joe' to talk about the sexual assault allegations made against him by former Congressional staffer Tara Reade, Donald Trump Jr. chimed in, 'What show is Joe going to go on to discuss Lori Klausutis?'
These are the specific tweets Timothy Klausutis asked Dorsey to delete from the platform.
'I have mourned my wife every day since her passing. I have tried to honor her memory and our marriage. As her husband, I feel that one of my marital obligations is to protect her memory as I would have protected her in life,' he wrote in the letter.
'There has been a constant barrage of falsehoods, half-truths, innuendo and conspiracy theories since the day she died. I realize that may sound like an exaggeration, unfortunately it is the verifiable truth. Because of this, I have struggled to move forward with my life,' he continued.
He talked about how he didn't want Lori's niece and two nephews, who never met their aunt before she died, to meet her this way.
'I'm a research engineer and not a lawyer, but reviewed all of Twitter's rules and terms of service. The President's tweet that suggests that Lori was murdered without evidence (and contrary to the official autopsy) - is a violation of Twitter's community rules and terms of service,' he argued. 'An ordinary user like me would be banished from the platform for such a tweet but I am only asking that these tweets be removed.'
'I'm asking you to intervene in this instance because the President of the United States has taken something that does not belong him — the memory of my dead wife and perverted it for perceived political gain,' Timothy Klausutis wrote.
Brzezinski said last week that she also planned to have a conversation with Dorsey over the president's tweets.
'Donald, you're a sick person, you're a sick person,' she said on 'Morning Joe,' before turning her attention to Twitter. 'Twitter, you shouldn't be allowing this, and you should be taking these tweets down and you should be ashamed of yourself, you will be hearing from me on this.'
Twitter lets Trump's tweets fly by arguing that he is a public figure and what he writes is news.
As of Tuesday morning, Trump's tweets remained on the website - and he continued to tweet about Lori Klausutis' death.
'The opening of a Cold Case against Psycho Joe Scarborough was not a Donald Trump original thought, this has been going on for years, long before I joined the chorus,' the president wrote Tueday morning. 'In 2016 when Joe & his wacky future ex-wife, Mika, would endlessly interview me, I would always be thinking about whether or not Joe could have done such a horrible thing? Maybe or maybe not, but I find Joe to be a total Nut Job, and I knew him well, far better than most.'
'So many unanswered & obvious questions, but I won't bring them up now! Law enforcement eventually will?' the president added.
Donald Trump Jr. tweeted to complain that the New York Times was calling for the president to be censored.
'The NY Times is calling for Twitter to censor the Pesident of the United States. If they can push for that who won't they try to censor next?' Trump Jr. wrote, misspelling president. 'If they can push for that who won't they try to censor next?'
'Given silicon valley's leftist tendencies you all better watch out, they are coming for all of you,' he added.
Kara Swisher, the reporter who penned the column that first referenced Klausutis' letter, had argued that the company needed to step in and play a bigger, truth-telling role.
'The company tends to be hands-off when a Trump controversy erupts, relying on a tenet that he is a public figure and also that it cannot sort out what is truth and a lie and is therefore better off letting its community argue it out,' she wrote. 'While that might work when it comes to some issues, it has broken down here.'
Swisher said banning Trump from Twitter, like some have suggested, would be 'too drastic,' and labeling the content misinformation wouldn't stop the spread of the lie.
'I am supportive of the suggestion Mr. Klausutis makes in his letter to simply remove the offending tweets,' she wrote.
HERE'S THE LETTER THE WIDOWER OF JOE SCARBOROUGH'S STAFFER SENT TO TWITTER'S JACK DORSEY
Nearly 19 years ago, my wife, who had an undiagnosed heart condition, fell and hit her head on her desk at work. She was found dead the next morning. Her name is Lori Kaye Klausutis and she was 28 years old when she died. Her passing is the single most painful thing that I have ever had to deal with in my 52 years and continues to haunt her parents and sister.
I have mourned my wife every day since her passing. I have tried to honor her memory and our marriage. As her husband, I feel that one of my marital obligations is to protect her memory as I would have protected her in life. There has been a constant barrage of falsehoods, half-truths, innuendo and conspiracy theories since the day she died. I realize that may sound like an exaggeration, unfortunately it is the verifiable truth. Because of this, I have struggled to move forward with my life.
The frequency, intensity, ugliness, and promulgation of these horrifying lies ever increases on the internet. These conspiracy theorists, including most recently the President of the United States, continue to spread their bile and misinformation on your platform disparaging the memory of my wife and our marriage. President Trump on Tuesday tweeted to his nearly 80 million followers alluding to the repeatedly debunked falsehood that my wife was murdered by her boss, former U.S. Rep. Joe Scarborough. The son of the president followed and more directly attacked my wife by tweeting to his followers as the means of spreading this vicious lie. I'm sure you are aware of this situation because media aroundthe world have covered it, but just in case, here it is:
'When willthey 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!' - President Trump
''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!' - President Trump
'What show is Joe going to go on to discuss Lori Klausutis?' - Donald Trump Jr.
My request is simple: Please delete these tweets.
I'm a research engineer and not a lawyer, but reviewed all of Twitter's rules and terms of service. The President's tweet that suggests that Lori was murdered without evidence (and contrary to the official autopsy) - is a violation of Twitter's community rules and terms of service. An ordinary user like me would be banished from the platform for such a tweet but I am only asking that these tweets be removed.
I am now angry as well as frustrated and grieved. I understand that Twitter's policies about content are designed to maintain the appearance that your hands are clean you provide the platform and the rest is up to users. However, in certain past cases, Twitter has removed content and accounts that are inconsistent with your terms of service.
I'm asking you to intervene in this instance because the President of the United States has taken something that does not belong him — the memory of my dead wife and perverted it for perceived political gain. I would also ask that you consider Lori's niece and two nephews who will eventually come across this filth in the future. They have never met their Aunt and it pains me to think they would ever have to 'learn' about her this way.
My wife deserves better.
Thank you for your consideration.
I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Timothy J. Klausutis, Ph.D