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Trump escalating war on Twitter, social media protections

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is escalating his war on social media companies, preparing to sign an executive order Thursday challenging the liability protections that have served as a bedrock for unfettered speech on the internet.

Still, the move appears to be more about politics than substance, as the president aims to rally supporters after he lashed out at Twitter for applying fact checks to two of his tweets.

The proposed order would direct executive branch agencies including the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission to study whether they can place new rules on the companies — though experts express doubts much can be done without an act of Congress.

Trump and his allies, who rely heavily on Twitter to verbally flog their foes, have long accused the tech giants in liberal-leaning Silicon Valley of targeting conservatives on social media by fact-checking them or removing their posts.

The executive order was expected to argue that such actions should cost those companies their protection from lawsuits for what is posted on their platforms.

Companies like Twitter and Facebook are granted liability protection under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act because they are treated as “platforms,” rather than “publishers,” which can face lawsuits over content.

A similar executive order was previously considered by the administration.

It was shelved over concerns that couldn’t pass legal muster and that it violated conservative principles on deregulation and free speech.

Two administration officials outlined the draft order on the condition of anonymity because it was still being finalized Thursday morning.

But a draft was circulating on Twitter — where else?

“This will be a Big Day for Social Media and FAIRNESS!” Trump tweeted.

Press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the Twitter fact checks reflected “bias in action” and Trump aimed to sign the order by the end of the day.

Trump on Wednesday claimed tech giants “silence conservative voices.” “We will strongly regulate, or close them down, before we can ever allow this to happen.”

Trump and his campaign reacted after Twitter added a warning phrase to two Trump tweets that called mail-in ballots “fraudulent” and predicted “mail boxes will be robbed.”

Under the tweets, there’s now a link reading “Get the facts about mail-in ballots” that guides users to a page with fact checks and news stories about Trump’s unsubstantiated claims.

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