President Donald Trump signed an executive order Thursday to limit liability protections social media companies enjoy after Twitter Inc. began selective fact checks of his posts.
Under current law, companies like Twitter and Facebook Inc. are protected for users' posts. The companies "will not be able to keep their liability shield" under the order, Trump told reporters at the White House.
"We're here today to defend free speech from one of the greatest dangers it has faced in American history frankly," Trump said. "And you know what's going on as well as anybody. It's not good.
"A small handful of small social media monopolies controls a vast portion of all public and private communications in the United States."
"They've had unchecked power to edit, restrict, censor, shape, hide, alter virtually any form of communication between private citizens or large public audiences. There's no precedent in American history for so small a number of corporations to control so large a sphere of human interaction," he added.
Trump's move comes after Twitter earlier this week labeled two of his posts about mail-in voting "potentially misleading" and provided links to news coverage of his comments. The president responded with outrage, accusing the social media company of censorship and election interference and threatening to possibly shut down the service.
Trump has long vowed to weigh social media bias against conservatives and he ripped Twitter's fact checking as "nothing more than political activism group or political activism, and it's inappropriate."
"This censorship and bias is a threat to freedom itself," Trump added.
If it were legal for him to shut down Twitter, Trump said, "I would do it."
The draft order seen by Reuters directs federal agencies to modify the way a law known as Section 230, which protects Internet companies from liability for content posted by their users, is implemented. It also orders a review of alleged "unfair or deceptive practices" by Facebook and Twitter, and calls on the government to reconsider advertising on services judged to "violate free speech principles."
Trump said he would not delete his Twitter account, because he cannot trust the "fake news media" to get his message out "fairly."
"There's nothing I would rather do that to get rid of my whole Twitter account," he said, but he said he will have to keep it to keep getting his message out, hopefully without "editors with a viewpoint."
"I am able to refute fake news and that's very important."
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