President Donald Trump went on a late-night Twitter rant about Twitter itself.
“Twitter is out of control, made possible through the government gift of Section 230!” he tweeted in the early hours of Friday morning.
Trump vs. Twitter
Twitter has been busy masking many of Trump’s tweets with the message, “Some or all of the content shared in this tweet is disputed and might be misleading about an election or other civic process.” The company applied that warning to Trump’s tweets claiming victory, to clips from Trump’s statement at the White House press briefing Thursday night and to tweets alleging vote fraud, among others.
The Wall Street Journal estimates that Twitter has masked with warnings more than a third of Trump’s tweets and retweets since Election Day.
Beyond that, the newspaper found about 190 examples of Trump alleging illegal voting since 2012. Roughly 75% of those examples were from 2020 alone.
Battles Over Section 230
Trump mentioned Section 230 in his tweet, referring to Section 230 of The Communications Decency Act of 1996. It gives tech companies immunity for third-party content posted on their platforms.
The tech companies say the immunity is warranted because they do not function like publishers of content. Their critics, such as Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), argue that tech companies are engaging in political censorship and effectively making editorial decisions.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), chaired by Ajit Pai, recently announced that it intends to pursue rulemaking to clarify the scope of Section 230’s immunity for tech companies.
Meanwhile, Trump’s Twitter account has long been the target of political foes who want to see Twitter suspend it. On Thursday, The Hill reported, two left-leaning nonprofits wrote to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey asking him to suspend Trump’s account for repeated violations of the Civic Integrity Policy.
“President Trump’s continued use of Twitter’s platform to spread disinformation may incite the public in ways that could prove harmful to public safety, if it has not done so already,” they wrote.
Trump has enjoyed a Twitter exemption granted to public leaders whose tweets are in the public interest. If he loses the election, he has to worry about much tighter restrictions on his tweets.