Donald Trump to Issue Social Media Executive Order After Twitter Fact-Checks Tweets

Donald Trump
President Donald Trump delivers remarks during a press briefing with members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force on April 18, 2020, in Washington, D.C. Trump is facing scrutiny over a series of tweets calling for state residents to 'liberate' themselves from strict 'stay-at-home' orders. Sarah Silbiger/Getty

President Donald Trump is expected to issue an executive order related to social media Thursday after Twitter—his favored mode of direct communication to his supporters—attached a fact-check disclaimer to his tweets about mail-in voting this week.

What the order will say is not yet clear. However, two of Trump's close GOP allies in Congress signaled earlier Wednesday a willingness to strip the social media giant of the special speech liability immunity it receives because of the fact-checking flap. Trump's move, in the end, is widely expected to be a strong-arming of the platform into not flagging his tweets.

Trump declined to answer reporters' questions about his plans after he returned to the White House following a trip to Florida on Wednesday. However, he expressed his frustration—on Twitter no less—about the messaging platform.

"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," Trump tweeted Wednesday. "Twitter has now shown that everything we have been saying about them (and their other compatriots) is correct. Big action to follow!"

One of Trump's supporters, U.S. Senator Josh Hawley (R-Missouri) sent a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey on Wednesday questioning the platform's "unprecedented decision to single out the President for disfavor, based on his political speech."

"Twitter's 'fact check' raises serious questions about whether Twitter targeted the president for political reasons," Hawley wrote in the letter.

Hawley's office did not respond to Newsweek's query whether he had been in touch with the president ahead of Trump's order, but the senator frequently confers with Trump about tech matters.

Twitter and similar social media platforms receive a special carve-out from liability that traditional publishers hold under the Communications Decency Act because they are considered passive distributors of third-party content.

"Editorializing is what publishers do, like the New York Times and the Washington Post," Hawley wrote in his letter to Dorsey. "Your company is treated very differently from publishers, as you know."

Representatives from Twitter did not immediately respond to Newsweek's request for comment.

Another Trump ally, U.S. Representative Matt Gaetz (R-Florida), said during his podcast, Hot Takes with Matt Gaetz, on Wednesday that he alo backs an effort to prevent social media giants like Twitter from fact-checking content on their platforms.

"Are we going to continue to treat entities like Twitter, like Facebook, like Google as unbiased platforms or are they going to take on more of the role of a news organization?" he said. "The initial play from twitter is that they're not merely going to provide a place for people to share their ideas, they're going to add their analysis to those ideas."

A spokesman for Gaetz referred Newsweek back to Gaetz's comments on his podcast.

Gaetz said on his podcast that social media platforms are protected from the types of repercussions that newspapers, TV stations and traditional media outlets face.

"They have special benefits as digital platforms because they're not creating content for which they should be liable," Gaetz said. "They're not making decisions about content, they're simply saying come one, come all with your content ... they're getting a bunch of protections."

A day earlier, Twitter—for the first time ever—flagged two Trump tweets with a fact-check disclaimer that linked to a page with additional context about mail-in voting after the president tweeted "Mail boxes will be robbed, ballots will be forged & even illegally printed out & fraudulently signed."

The fact check page led with a headline that read "Trump makes unsubstantiated claim that mail-in ballots will lead to voter fraud" with notes calling Trump's claims "false," citing NBC News, CNN, the Washington Post and other fact checkers.

It sparked a backlash from the president and his campaign.

"Twitter is completely stifling FREE SPEECH, and I, as President, will not allow it to happen!" Trump tweeted hours later.

In an interview scheduled to air on Fox News Thursday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg sides with Trump's position.

"I just believe strongly that Facebook shouldn't be the arbiter of truth of everything that people say online," he said in a preview clip shared on the network's website. "Private companies probably shouldn't be, especially these platform companies, shouldn't be in the position of doing that."

A Facebook spokesman told Newsweek the company had no further comment beyond Zuckerberg's remarks in the interview.

Update (5/27, 9:45 p.m.): This article has been updated to include that Gaetz and Facebook had no further comment.