WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is set to announce an executive order against social media companies on Thursday, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters aboard Air Force One on the return flight to Washington following NASA’s aborted SpaceX launch.
McEnany did not specify what the order would include, but it signals the most significant step the President has taken in his war with tech companies as they struggle to balance freedom of speech with the growing problem of misinformation.
On Tuesday, Twitter applied a fact-check to two of Trump’s tweets, including one that claimed mail-in ballots would lead to widespread voter fraud. Trump immediately shot back, accusing the social media giant of censorship and warning that if it continued to offer addendums to his messages, he would use the power of the federal government to rein it in or even shut it down.
It is not clear what constraints the President would be able to apply to social media companies through executive order.
Many of Trump’s political allies rushed to his defense on Wednesday.
“Twitter is engaging in 2020 election interference. They are putting their thumb on the scale,” said Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz, a loyal Trump supporter and surrogate during an appearance on the Steve Bannon-produced podcast War Room Pandemic. “The notion that they would outsource fact checking to people who have been wrong about everything is an insult.”
Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale said that his team no longer pays for advertising on Twitter and accused the tech giant of purposefully influencing the election to hurt the President.
“We always knew that Silicon Valley would pull out all the stops to obstruct and interfere with President Trump getting his message through to voters,” Parscale said in a statement. “Partnering with the biased fake news media ‘fact checkers’ is only a smoke screen Twitter is using to try to lend their obvious political tactics some false credibility.”
While Twitter added the fact check to Trump’s tweets on mail-in voting, it did not do so on any of his recent tweets suggesting MSNBC host Joe Scarborough was somehow involved in the death of a former aide, despite a plea from the aide’s widower to take the tweets down.
Trump’s Twitter habits have been the scrutinized for virtually his entire political career.