Why is Twitter so biased

Arrangement enables lawsuits against Twitter : Trump signs decree to curtail social media

Donald Trump has followed through on his threat and further escalated the dispute with the short message service Twitter. The US President signed an order on Thursday to end the protection of social media such as Twitter and Facebook from prosecution. According to the arrangement, the platform's ability to moderate content should also be curtailed.

The trigger for this step is a dispute between Trump and Twitter: The Californian company marked two tweets from the president as misleading for the first time this week. Trump then spoke of censorship.

Trump justified his move on Thursday with the accusation that the platforms were no longer neutral, but operated political activism. "We are here today to defend freedom of expression against one of its greatest threats in American history," said Trump.

Trump speaks of monopolists

"A small number of powerful social media monopoly controls much of all public and private communications in the United States." They tried to suppress views they did not like. He would not allow that any longer, said the president, who also brought into play a break-up of the corporations if this was legally possible. "This censorship and bias is a threat to freedom."

According to experts, the ruling will be quickly challenged in court. Trump himself also admitted this shortly before the signing in the Oval Office. "I assume so," he said, but that is always the case.

When asked why he didn't just delete his Twitter account, the president said, "If we had fair press in this country, I would do it right now."

The US president has 80 million followers

Trump is followed by more than 80 million people on Twitter. He communicates directly with his followers via the online service - and can thus bypass the traditional media, which he repeatedly attacks for critical reporting.

Specifically, the order provides, through the media such as the "Washington Post" had reported in advance, that the Ministry of Economic Affairs should call on the telecommunications regulator FCC to examine the scope of a regulation known as "Section 230". According to the regulation, which is part of a 1996 law, online services are not liable for user-posted content such as comments and videos.

At the same time, "Section 230" allows the platforms to take action against certain content or users. In addition, the FTC, which is responsible for consumer protection, will be entrusted with investigating complaints about political bias. In addition, federal authorities are to be obliged to review their spending on advertising on social media.

Policy debate on freedom of expression

There is hardly a debate in the USA that is more fundamental than the dispute over freedom of expression. The first amendment to the US Constitution guarantees the "freedom of speech" - and thus, according to popular belief, even protects the utterance of untrue facts.

But not only since conspiracy theories and fake news spread rapidly in the corona crisis have there been efforts to take action against them. A good two weeks ago, Twitter tightened its rules and began providing false information and misleading rumors about the coronavirus with warning notices.

The President did not want to let sit on the fact that this also happened with two Trump tweets, who had declared that postal voting allowed election fraud. On Wednesday evening, the White House announced that the President intended to take action against online platforms that suppress "conservative opinions" with an order.

But it is not a spontaneous impulse either: The Trump administration has been discussing this topic since 2018.

The US president poses as a pioneer for freedom of expression

A year ago, the White House launched a social media call: Users should report who, in their own opinion, are made invisible or censored by platforms such as Facebook, Youtube, Instagram and Twitter. The reason given was that many American social media accounts had been closed, blocked or reported abusively due to unclear violations of user guidelines. This may violate the "Freedom of Speech". The president is fighting for freedom of expression.

[With the "Twenty / Twenty" newsletter, our US experts accompany you on your way to the presidential election every Thursday. You can register for free here: tagesspiegel.de/twentytwenty]

Trump himself repeatedly claims that right-wing positions and opinions are systematically suppressed by social networks in the USA. Recently, for the first time in its history, Facebook had permanently banned conspiracy theorists such as Milo Yiannopoulos and Alex Jones from the network. In mid-May, Trump tweeted that the "radical left" had "complete control" over Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Google.

On Wednesday evening, he claimed on Twitter that big tech companies were doing everything they could to censor ahead of the presidential election. "If that happens, we will no longer have our freedom. I will never let that happen!" Trump wants to be re-elected in November.

Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg: Are not referees

Statements by Mark Zuckerberg suggested that the online networks do not follow a uniform line. The Trump-friendly broadcaster Fox News published excerpts from an interview with the Facebook boss. In it, Zuckerberg says he "firmly believes that Facebook shouldn't be the arbiter of the truth in everything people say online." There are fact checks on Facebook, but basically not on statements by politicians.

[If you want to have all the latest developments on the coronavirus crisis live on your mobile phone, we recommend our completely redesigned app, which you can download here for Apple and Android devices.]

Twitter boss Jack Dorsey said that they would continue to point out "false or controversial information" about elections worldwide. That doesn't make Twitter the "arbiter of the truth". Meanwhile, Twitter also provided tweets by the Chinese Foreign Office spokesman with speculation about the origin of the corona virus with a fact check note.

Many US Democrats have long called for tough action against "fake news". Former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton declared in 2019 that Zuckerberg would have to answer for what he was doing to "our democracy" if he continued to refuse to subject political advertising to a fact check on his network.

Clinton questioned whether free and fair elections were possible at all. It is obvious that false information on Facebook has an impact on elections, because "propaganda works". In the 2016 election campaign, for example, the false claim that Pope Francis supports Donald Trump helped her rival.

Now new: We give you 4 weeks of Tagesspiegel Plus! To home page