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Trump Threatens to Regulate, Close Social-Media Companies amid Tensions with Twitter

President Donald Trump speaks to reporters as he departs on travel to Phoenix, Ariz., from the South Lawn of the White House, May 5, 2020. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

President Trump on Wednesday threatened social-media companies with regulation and even closure over past alleged election interference, a day after Twitter fact-checked two of the president’s tweets, a first for the company.

In several tweets on Wednesday morning, the president accused social-media companies of silencing conservatives, as well as interfering in the 2016 election.

“Republicans feel that Social Media Platforms totally silence conservatives voices,” Trump wrote. “We will strongly regulate, or close them down, before we can ever allow this to happen.”

“We saw what they attempted to do, and failed, in 2016. We can’t let a more sophisticated version of that happen again,” Trump continued, drawing a comparison between these actions and allowing mail-in ballots on a large scale, which he said “would be a free for all” and a breeding ground for cheating, forgery, and the theft of ballots.

The president called on social-media companies to “clean up your act” and later mentioned Twitter by name, promising action on the matter without offering details.

“Twitter has now shown that everything we have been saying about them (and their other compatriots) is correct. Big action to follow!” Trump wrote.

On Tuesday, Twitter placed fact-check warnings on two of the president’s tweets that claimed that the use of mail-in ballots for large numbers of people would be “substantially fraudulent” and result in a “rigged election.” The social media giant noted in its fact-check that Trump’s claim that California plans to mail ballots to anyone living in the state is inaccurate, as only registered voters will receive a ballot. Twitter added that fact-checkers believe there is no evidence that mail-in ballots are linked to voter fraud.

Democrats have pushed for voting by mail to protect voters from having to leave their homes to vote, possibly exposing themselves to the coronavirus. More than a dozen states have either delayed their primary elections or expanded voting by mail as the pandemic continues.

Mail ballots have resulted in several recent instances of fraud, including the coercion of elderly voters in Texas and a ballot-harvesting scheme in North Carolina during the 2018 midterms that caused GOP congressional candidate Mark Harris’s victory to be voided. In California, cases have cropped up in which dozens of ballots were sent to the same person, or a ballot was sent to an undocumented immigrant who had never registered to vote.

“These Tweets contain potentially misleading information about voting processes and have been labeled to provide additional context around mail-in ballots,” a Twitter spokesperson told The Hill.

Trump’s broadsides against Twitter and warning that social-media companies could face a crackdown are only the latest in his criticisms that the companies harbor “terrible bias” against his supporters.

Last July, before the White House Social Media Summit, Trump promised that we “will not let them get away with it much longer,” referring to the “bias” practiced by certain social-media companies.

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