A number of social media messages posted by President Donald Trump in recent days—namely those about the election results, as well as problems and irregularities with vote counting, election observation, and lawsuits filed—have been censored by Twitter and Facebook.
Lawmakers and experts say that such activities restrict free speech and the Big Tech should be reined in.
Since Nov. 5, more than a dozen messages posted or retweeted by President Donald Trump have been censored by Twitter. Some messages posted by Trump were hidden by Twitter on Trump’s timeline and covered by labels saying, “Some or all of the content shared in this Tweet is disputed and might be misleading about an election or other civic process.”
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 6, 2020
For example, Trump posted a video on Nov. 5 that was censored. In the video, Trump says: “Detroit and Philadelphia are known as two of the most corrupt political places anywhere in our country—easily. They cannot be responsible for engineering the outcome of a presidential race.
“But when our observers attempted to challenge the activity, the poll workers jumped in front of the volunteers to block their view so they couldn’t see what they were doing.”
Twitter also disabled the functionality of censored posts. If one attempts to reply, like, or share censored posts, Twitter displays a message stating: “We try to prevent a Tweet like this that otherwise breaks the Twitter Rules from reaching more people, so we have disabled most of the ways to engage with it. If you want to talk about it, you can still Retweet with a comment. Learn more.”
In order to retweet censored messages, the user must enter a comment on the censored tweet; otherwise, the message can’t be retweeted.
Twitter justifies its actions by providing a link to its “civic integrity policy.”
Facebook added its own messages to most of Trump’s posts but allows its users to like, share, or comment on them.
For example, Trump posted a message on Facebook quoting former Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker saying, “We need an explanation as to how these numbers have been running up for the last two or three days.”
Facebook added to Trump’s message its own message: “Joe Biden is the projected winner of the 2020 US Presidential Election. Sources: Reuters/NEP/Edison, others. See Election Results.”
The added message isn’t a user comment, it is a part of the post. The user can close the message appended by Facebook and can also like, share, or comment on Trump’s posts. The posts can be shared with or without Facebook’s addition.
Other messages appended by Facebook to Trump’s messages state: “As expected, election results have taken longer this year. The US has law, procedures, and established institutions to ensure the integrity of our election. Source: Bipartisan Policy Center. See Election Results.
“Election officials follow strict rules when it comes to ballot counting, handling, and reporting. Source: Bipartisan Policy Center, See Election Results.”
Concerns are being raised about Silicon Valley’s influence on politics and the elections.
The U.S. Senate’s Commerce Committee held a hearing on Oct. 28 on whether immunity given to Big Tech by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act empowered these companies to restrict speech or selectively censor social media content.
When asked at the hearing whether Twitter has the ability to influence elections, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said, “No.”
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who asked Dorsey the question, followed up: “Twitter, when it silences people, when it censors people, when it blocks political speech, that has no impact on elections?”
In response, Dorsey said that people can choose “other communication channels” and that its policies focus on “ensuring that more voices on the platform are possible.”
Cruz said he found Dorsey’s answers “absurd on their face.”
Rachel Bovard, senior director of policy at the Conservative Partnership Institute, told The Epoch Times: “President Trump is being censored. I think a lot of conservative accounts are being censored for simply raising questions.
“Again, this is what these platforms say they’re designed to do: to foster free thought, free inquiry, and allow people to make up their own minds. The way they act is very much in contradiction to that.”
“When the biggest speech platforms in the world are no longer allowing people to speak freely, are engaging in blatant viewpoint censorship, then yes, I think it’s incumbent on the Congress to say: ‘Are we benefiting this? Are our policies actually encouraging this?’” Bovard said during an interview with The Epoch Times’ “American Thought Leaders” program.
“Let’s do some oversight here of the subsidies that we’re giving these industries. I think that’s the entirely appropriate role of Congress,” she added. “If Congress can’t or won’t do it, President Trump is looking to do this in a second term with FCC regulations that will bring section 230—which is Big Tech’s financial subsidy—back to its original intent.”
Rep. Greg Steube (R-Fla.) proposed legislation on Oct. 30 that would require Big Tech companies to adhere to the “First Amendment standard for their content moderation practices.”
“Unelected Big Tech CEOs should not be able to abuse the protections granted to them by Section 230 to block speech and withhold information from the public, just because it doesn’t suit their political beliefs,” Steube said in a statement. “Their censorship has gone beyond simply acting as publishers and has reached the point of active and intentional election interference. They will be held accountable.”
The legislation distinguishes between “Big Tech” and “Small Tech” by employing a market dominance test in order to protect immunity for innovators, market disruptors, and users, leaving no room for Big Tech abuse, according to the statement.
Jan Jekielek contributed to this report.