U.S. President Donald Trump is threatening unspecified retaliation against Twitter after the social media platform tagged a pair of his tweets on Tuesday with a fact-check warning.  The unprecedented alert on the @realDonaldTrump tweets about mail-in balloting prompted the president to accuse Twitter of interference in this year’s election and of “completely stifling” free speech.  “I, as President, will not allow it to happen,” he concluded.  .Fact checking needed, critics say
“Social media companies have been struggling with the spread of misinformation and the need for fact checking for years, most prominently in the last presidential election,” noted Marcus Messner, the  director of Virginia Commonwealth University’s school of media and culture.  “Twitter is right to flag incorrect information even when it involves tweets by President Trump,” Messner told VOA. The journalism professor noted the action “walks the fine between fact checking and being accused of censoring political speech through more drastic measures such as deleting posts and suspending accounts. But the question remains whether the fact tags with links to news articles will even be recognized by supporters of President Trump, who regularly dismiss all reporting from mainstream media. The effect of the fact tags in this heated partisan environment might be limited.”    Texas A&M Communications Assistant Professor Jennifer Mercieca, who refers to Trump as “an outrage president” who uses social media to “go around the news filter and speak directly with his supporters and set the nation’s news agenda” says Twitter’s strategy “allows Trump to communicate, but enables his audience to think more critically about the content of his message.” Mercieca, author of “2020: Demagogue for President: The Rhetorical Genius of Donald Trump,” accuses Trump of using his Twitter account irresponsibly to spread “conspiracy, racism and misinformation.” The president’s response to the action by the platform “is to further use outrage to condemn Twitter for the policy while vaguely threatening that he would do something to stop them,” she told VOA. It is unclear what legal leverage Trump has over Twitter, which does not need any government licenses to operate as do radio or television stations.Twitter stands by decision A Twitter spokesperson said the company took the unprecedented action, based on its new policy announced earlier this month, because Trump’s tweets “contain potentially misleading information about voting processes and have been labeled to provide additional context around mail-in ballots.” During an exchange with reporters in the White House Rose Garden earlier Tuesday, Trump, responding to journalist’s questions about his mail-in ballot accusations, claimed the state of California — the most populous in the country — would be sending out “millions and millions of ballots to anybody,” including those who “don’t have the right to vote.”  California is planning to send every registered voter a ballot by mail for the November 3 election, a plan that prompted the Republican National Committee to sue California Governor Gavin Newsom.  The action by Twitter to flag Trump’s tweets “is a small step in the right direction. But we can all do our part to call out the lies,” California Secretary of State Alex Padilla tweeted on Tuesday evening. “The president is intentionally spreading false information about vote by mail and blatantly trying to suppress the vote.”  .@Twitter “fact-checking” @realDonaldTrump is a small step in the right direction. But we can all do our part to call out the lies. The president is intentionally spreading false information about vote by mail and blatantly trying to suppress the vote. RT the TRUTH. pic.twitter.com/oaJGH41K1I— Alex Padilla (@AlexPadilla4CA) May 26, 2020Calls to delete some tweets
Twitter has also been facing calls to remove Trump’s tweets that push an old conspiracy theory about the death of a congressional staffer.  The president has stopped short of directly accusing Joe Scarborough, a former Republican congressman, who hosts a morning program on the MSNBC cable channel of killing a woman in 2001 even though the politician was 1,300 kilometers away at the time and authorities ruled her death an accident. Scarborough was once friendly with Trump but has become a fierce on-air critic of the president.  “We are deeply sorry about the pain these statements, and the attention they are drawing, are causing the family,” said a Twitter spokesperson on Tuesday. “We’ve been working to expand existing product features and features so we can more effectively address things like this going forward, and we hope to have those changes in place shortly.” Timothy Klausutis, widower of Lori Klausutis, has written to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey claiming the president has violated the social media company’s erms of service and “has taken something that does not belong to him-the memory of my dead wife-and perverted it for perceived political gain.” Questioned by reporters in the Rose Garden about the tweets on Tuesday, Trump did not prevaricate.  “I’m sure that, ultimately, they want to get to the bottom of it and it’s a very serious situation,” the president said of the deceased woman’s relatives, calling for law enforcement to re-open the investigation. “As you know, there’s no statute of limitations. So, it would be a very good, very good thing to do.”    

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