US President Donald Trump’s plan to take down social media sites for their perceived bias against Republicans and conservatives appears to have hit a snag after a Federal court didn’t agree with him.
Mr Trump issued a threat to social media platforms, particularly Twitter this week after the site placed “fact check” links on some of his tweets after years of pressure to not let the unsubstantiated claims of politicians on the platform go unchecked.
“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,” Mr Trump said.
But on Wednesday a US Federal court rejected the idea that technology firms like Google, Apple, Facebook and Twitter were conspiring with one another to suppress conservative views.
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The court was hearing an appeal in a case brought by a right-wing YouTuber and a nonprofit legal action group that recently filed a $20 trillion lawsuit against China in relation to the coronavirus pandemic.
YouTuber Laura Loomer and Freedom Watch, the nonprofit founded by former prosecutor turned right-wing activist lawyer Larry Klayman, accused the tech companies of violating antitrust laws as well as the First Amendment of the US constitution.
The court found Ms Loomer and Freedom Watch didn’t produce enough evidence to prove an antitrust violation, and that the companies aren’t even capable of violating the First Amendment, which only applies to the government.
Two of the three judges on the panel were appointed by Republican presidents, and one by a Democrat.
Bloomberg reports the district court judge who dismissed the case was appointed by President Trump himself.
Mr Klayman told the news outlet he’d file a petition to have the case heard by a larger panel, as well as take the case to the Supreme Court if necessary.
He accused the court of using the decision as a veiled response to President Trump’s comments about regulating or shutting social media sites after the Twitter “fact check” appeared on some of his tweets.
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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…..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 26, 2020
A link that appears under the post on Twitter’s website directs users to “get the facts about mail-in ballots”.
The “fact check” consists of a link to a CNN article from an analyst who posits the President’s true reason for opposing mail-in ballots is simply because he doesn’t like losing.
The article does also outline several studies and investigations into voter fraud that have consistently found it is not nearly as big a problem as the President and other politicians like to make out.
The “fact check” also contains a list of bullet points from the social media site claiming:
- Trump falsely claimed that mail-in ballots would lead to “a Rigged Election.” However, fact-checkers say there is no evidence that mail-in ballots are linked to voter fraud.
- Trump falsely claimed that California will send mail-in ballots to “anyone living in the state, no matter who they are or how they got there.” In fact, only registered voters will receive ballots.
- Five states already vote entirely by mail and all states offer some form of mail-in absentee voting, according to NBC News.
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It was the first time Twitter has placed fact checks on the US President’s tweets, and its first attempt suggests the company still has some way to go in providing accurate fact checks that can’t be dismissed as simply a matter of opinion.
Fact-checking on social media sites is a relatively new phenomenon, partially spurred by the election of President Trump at the 2016 US election that was dogged by misinformation campaigns designed to influence public opinion on social media.
Opponents feel social media sites shouldn’t be able to decide what’s classed as “fact”, an argument the sites, particularly Facebook, have refuted by arguing the fact checking is conducted by third-party news outlets the company partners with, and not the social media sites themselves.
Other details on the rest of its fact-checking program (such as how much the outlets are paid for fact checks) are scant, and the company doesn’t like answering questions about it.
WHO SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO VOTE BY MAIL?
Postal voting is being considered to avoid large crowds gathering in the US, the country most impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, as it prepares to vote later this year.
Further stoking the fire on the postal voting issue, Florida newspaper the Tampa Bay Times has now revealed that Trump’s press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, who has been defending her boss’s attacks on postal voting, has voted by mail in every single Florida election she’s voted in.
The paper’s analysis of her voting records show she voted by mail 11 times in ten years, most recently in March during presidential primaries.
President Trump also voted by post in those primaries, after making Florida his official permanent home, but being the President, he spends a lot of time in Washington D.C.
Ms McEnany defended her and the President’s right to vote by mail when asked why everyone else shouldn’t be allowed to as well.
“Absentee voting has the word absent in it for a reason,” she told the Tampa Bay Times.
“It means you’re absent from the jurisdiction or unable to vote in person. President Trump is against the Democrat plan to politicise the coronavirus and expand mass mail-in voting without a reason, which has a high propensity for voter fraud. This is a simple distinction that the media fails to grasp,” she told the newspaper.
Florida does not have absentee voting: you can vote by post prior to election day for any reason you like, a simple distinction some in politics fail to grasp.
Originally published as Why Trump can’t ‘close them down’