With just under three weeks to go until the 2020 presidential election, Trump has his sights set on the big issues. No, not the ongoing coronavirus pandemic that has left more than 215,000 Americans dead, nor the skyrocketing number of jobless claims as millions of people look for work, nor the environmental crisis threatening to doom future generations. Trump's focus is on the one issue front and center in the hearts and minds of every American: one of his twitter accounts being briefly disabled.
After one of his campaign accounts, @TeamTrump, was temporarily locked for tweeting out a link to a video referencing a completely bonkers story about Hunter Biden published by the New York Post, Trump took to the airwaves on Fox Business Thursday morning and threatened legal action against Twitter and Facebook.
Trump was informed by Fox Business host Stuart Varney that the account was locked during the on-air interview. Trump seemed to be completely unaware of this, telling the host, "Well, I haven't heard that, but if it is, it is." But without any need to actually, you know, know what was happening, the president then launched into a rant about social media companies. He called Twitter and Facebook tools of the "radical left," "Antifa," and a third arm of the DNC." He also said that the company's perceived anti-conservative bias is "all going to end up in a big lawsuit."
This is far from the first time that Trump has threatened to take action against the social media giants. He has railed on the supposed liberal agenda of the companies for years, claiming that they censor and silence conservative voices — all while building a massive following across the platforms. Earlier this year, he claimed that he would simply "close" social media, a thing that he almost certainly cannot do, after Twitter fact checked one of his tweets that contained misinformation about mail-in voting.
He's also been harping about Section 230, a part of the Communications Decency Act that, among other things, gives website operators the ability to restrict access to or availability of content that is deemed objectionable. Calls to repeal the law have once again started up in conservative circles following Facebook and Twitter's decision to limit the spread of the New York Post's dubious story about Joe Biden's son. Trump went so far as to issue an executive order to undo that part of the law, though it doesn't seem to have changed anything, likely because the order was considered by most experts to essentially be completely nonsensical and unenforceable.
Trump's threats of legal action are likely empty, but it's not as if Facebook and Twitter haven't given him plenty to complain about in their handling of the Hunter Biden story. The companies both proactively tried to limit its spread as soon as people started pointing out some of the more questionable aspects of the reporting, but in doing so managed to undercut the Post's reporting collapsing in on itself and gave the story a second life, this time about Big Tech's alleged overreach.
The crowing from Trump and his cohorts, including those who regularly dominate the platforms that they claim are censoring them, is only likely to increase as we get closer to election day. YouTube announced Thursday that it is banning QAnon content and purging its platform of some of the most prominent voices in that conspiratorial movement. Given that QAnon has grabbed hold of Trumpism and has a fair number of supporters within the conservative movement, this move will likely scream of censorship to them, too.