- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 27, 2020

President Trump on Wednesday threatened to punish social media platforms for anti-conservative bias after Twitter flagged several of his posts as potentially misleading.

Mr. Trump plans to sign an executive order Thursday “pertaining to social media,” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters on Air Force One on Wednesday evening, but had no details about the measure.

Mr. Trump, a prolific tweeter, accused Twitter on Wednesday of interfering in the election and stifling free speech.

“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,” he tweeted.

Mr. Trump’s threats came after Twitter, for the first time, flagged two of Mr. Trump’s tweets and included fact-checking links on posts tied to voting by mail.

The president has repeatedly said that large-scale voting by mail schemes are prone to fraud. A handful of states had already moved to universal vote-by-mail systems before the coronavirus pandemic took hold, with positive reviews.

Republicans rallied to Mr. Trump’s cause.

Sen. Josh Hawley, Missouri Republican, called Twitter’s decision to single out the president “alarming.”

In a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey on Wednesday, Mr. Hawley asked whether the company plans to conduct similarly rigorous reviews of propaganda from the Chinese Communist Party or statements from likely Democratic presidential nominee Joseph R. Biden on its platform.

“Will Twitter editorialize regularly in response to his comments on social media? Or will Twitter only go after people its employees dislike?” Mr. Hawley asked.

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said the president was making a point about social media platforms’ suppressing conservative voices.

“Using outlets that are you know decisively and proudly anti-Trump to fact check the president was maybe the richest piece of the whole thing,” she said.

The original tweets included the following:

“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. 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.”

“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. This will be a Rigged Election. No way!”

Twitter included links on the two tweets that directed users to sections citing experts who point out that mail-in voting is rarely linked to fraud and a statement that California was sending absentee ballots only to registered voters, not “anyone living in the state.”

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said the move was necessary to protect public health during the pandemic. Several Republican groups have sued, saying Mr. Newsom overstepped his authority.

A Twitter spokesperson said the tweets contain “potentially misleading information” about voting processes and that they were labeled to provide additional context on mail-in ballots.

Some Democrats, including Sen. Kamala D. Harris of California, have previously called on Twitter to suspend the president’s entire account.

Rep. Barbara Lee used the platform on Wednesday to say Mr. Trump’s tweets “put people in danger and undermine our democracy.”

“Fact checking his tweets is the least they can do,” she said.

The new fact-checking came as Twitter is also under pressure to remove several tweets from Mr. Trump in which the president suggested MSNBC host Joe Scarborough was involved in the death of a former staffer.

Lori Kaye Klausutis fainted and hit her head at one of Mr. Scarborough’s Florida offices when the staunch Trump critic was a GOP congressman.

Timothy Klausutis, her husband, had written a letter to Mr. Dorsey last week asking the company to delete several of the president’s tweets and calling Mr. Trump a conspiracy theorist for promoting a “debunked falsehood.”

“I’m sure that, ultimately, they want to get to the bottom of it, and it’s a very serious situation,” the president said this week.

A company spokesperson said they’re deeply sorry about the pain the statements are causing the family.

“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,” they said.

Several Republicans, including House GOP Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney, said Mr. Trump should cool it on that front.

“We’re in the middle of a pandemic,” Ms. Cheney, Wyoming Republican, said on Wednesday. “He’s the commander-in-chief of this nation and it’s causing great pain to the family of the young woman who died.”

• Ryan Lovelace can be reached at rlovelace@washingtontimes.com.

• David Sherfinski can be reached at dsherfinski@washingtontimes.com.

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