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Facebook, Trump and Twitter controversy: The story so far

It is unclear how Trump could follow through on the threat of shutting down social media companies. President, himself is a heavy user of Twitter with more than 80 million followers

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Donald Trump | Twitter | Facebook

Sukanya Roy  |  New Delhi 

Well, in an unprecedented move, on May 26th labelled tweets from US President as misleading. The social media giant highlighted two of Trump's tweets that falsely claimed mail-in ballots would lead to widespread voter fraud. "Get the facts about mail-in ballots," read a message beneath each tweet. Now, if you click on the message, it is linked to a fact-checked page the platform had created filled with further links and summaries of news articles.

Trump hit back at Twitter, saying the social media platform is "interfering" in the 2020 presidential election and completely "stifling" free speech and I, as President, will not allow it to happen!" he said. President even threatened to shut down the platform.

said that the move was aimed at providing "context" around Trump's remarks. But Twitter's decision is likely to raise further questions about its willingness to consistently apply the label to other Trump's tweets.

And that seems to be true. has now flagged a couple of tweets posted by China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson. According to media reports, the warning labels were added to tweets from spokesman Lijian Zhao, one of which read: "It might be the US Army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan." Twitter added the warning more than two months after the tweets were posted, reports The New York Times.

Twitter CEO defended the fact checking action against Trump tweets. Dorsey said the micro-blogging platform would continue to point out incorrect or disputed information about elections globally. "Fact check: there is someone ultimately accountable for our actions as a company, and that's me. Please leave our employees out of this" tweeted Dorsey.

But it was unclear how Trump could follow through on the threat of shutting down social media companies. President, himself is a heavy user of Twitter with more than 80 million followers. Trump's threat to shut down platforms like Twitter and is his strongest yet within a broader conservative backlash against Big Tech.

However, President on May 28, just two days after Twitter labelled Trump's tweets as potentially misleading signed an executive order aimed at increasing the ability of the government to regulate social media platforms. Speaking from the Oval Office ahead of signing the order, Trump said that the move was to "defend free speech from one of the gravest dangers it has faced in American history". Trump acknowledged that legal challenges to the order are on the horizon, saying he was "sure they will be doing a lawsuit.

Twitter again flagged a fresh tweet from US President Donald Trump for violating its rules about "glorifying violence", marking out the leader's posts for a second time. This came hours after Trump signed an executive order aimed at stripping social media giants like Twitter and of legal immunity for the content posted by third-party users. The move came after Trump tweeted that "when the looting starts, the shooting starts" in reference to the ongoing unrest in Minneapolis following the death of George Floyd.

Trump's comment evoked the civil-rights era by borrowing a phrase used in 1967 by Miami's police chief to warn of an aggressive police response to unrest in black neighbourhoods.

Now, while Twitter demoted and placed a warning tweet about the protests, has let it stand, with Zuckerberg laying out his reasoning in a Facebook post Friday.

Coming to what Zuckerberg said?

"I know many people are upset that we've left the President's posts up, but our position is that we should enable as much expression as possible unless it will cause imminent risk of specific harms or dangers spelled out in clear policies. I have a visceral negative reaction to this kind of divisive and inflammatory rhetoric. But I'm responsible for reacting not just in my personal capacity but as the leader of an institution committed to free expression" Zuckerberg wrote.

How Facebook employees are protesting

Facebook employees are using Twitter to register their frustration over CEO Mark Zuckerberg's decision to leave up this post by Trump. On Monday, Facebook employees staged a virtual walkout to protest the company's decision not to touch the Trump posts according to a report in the newspaper New York Times. The Times report says dozens of Facebook workers took the day off by logging into Facebook's systems and requesting time off to support protesters across the country." I work at Facebook and I am not proud of how we're showing up.

told employees on Tuesday that he stood by his decision not to challenge inflammatory posts by US President Donald Trump, refusing to give ground a day after staff members staged a rare public protest. Zuckerberg told employees on a video chat that Facebook had conducted a thorough review and was right to leave the posts unchallenged.

Yesterday, nearly three dozen former employees from Facebook's early days blasted Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg's decision not to act against incendiary posts by US President Donald Trump as "cowardly" and a "betrayal" of company ideals.

Meanwhile, the Internet Association, which includes Twitter and Facebook among its members, said online platforms do not have a political bias and they offer "more people a chance to be heard than at any point in history.

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First Published: Thu, June 04 2020. 18:03 IST
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