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Trump threatens social media companies after Twitter adds fact-checking labels to tweets

Trump's tweets get fact-checked
Trump's tweets get fact-checked 09:31

Washington — President Trump threatened to "strongly regulate" or shut down social media companies on Wednesday, one day after Twitter added fact-checking warnings under two of the president's tweets about mail-in voting.

"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. We saw what they attempted to do, and failed, in 2016," Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter Wednesday morning.

"We can't let a more sophisticated version of that...happen again. Just like we can't let large scale Mail-In Ballots take root in our Country. It would be a free for all on cheating, forgery and the theft of Ballots. Whoever cheated the most would win. Likewise, Social Media. Clean up your act, NOW!!!!" Mr. Trump continued.

It is unclear what authority Mr. Trump believes he has to shut down social media companies, given the First Amendment protection of freedom of speech. Congress has likewise been hesitant to adopt stronger regulations governing major social media companies like Facebook and Twitter, and Republicans have long been opposed to stricter federal regulations on businesses.

In his tweets on Tuesday, Mr. Trump alleged that expanding access to mail-in voting could lead to widespread ballot fraud, a claim that is at odds with the evidence. Twitter added a link under the tweets urging users to "Get the facts about mail-in ballots," which included tweets from news organizations and experts debunking the president's claim. It was the first time Twitter has added fact-checking labels to the president's tweets.

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Twitter added a fact-checking label to President Trump's tweets for the first time on Tuesday, May 26, 2020. @realDonaldTrump / Twitter

Several state governments, including some led by Republicans, have encouraged citizens to vote by mail given concerns about the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Experts have found that instances of widespread ballot fraud are rare.

On Tuesday evening, Mr. Trump accused Twitter of "interfering in the 2020 Presidential Election" by issuing a fact check.

"Twitter is completely stifling FREE SPEECH, and I, as President, will not allow it to happen!" Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter.

Twitter's decision to fact-check Mr. Trump's mail-in voting tweets comes as the president continues to propagate a conspiracy theory about MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, insinuating that he was somehow responsible for the death of a woman who worked in his office when he was a congressman. The woman's husband, Timothy Klausutis, has asked Twitter to take down Mr. Trump's tweets about his wife's death, calling them "horrifying lies."

Twitter said it will not remove the tweets.

"We are deeply sorry about the pain these statements, and the attention they are drawing, are causing the family," a spokesperson said in a statement to CBS News on Tuesday. "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."

Twitter has not added fact-checking links under Mr. Trump's tweets about Scarborough, which continued Wednesday morning.

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