Months before Donald Trump mused publicly about a plan to “strongly regulate” some social media and other tech platforms “or close them down,” his son said the federal government should begin to withdraw some legal protections from them.
Donald Trump Jr. told Zenger News in February that companies like Facebook and Google should lose government protections if they discriminate against conservatives and try to mute their points of view.
He hinted that changes should be made to the Communications Decency Act, which shields online platforms from responsibility when their users publish material that could invite lawsuits or criminal prosecutions.
“It’s not free-market when these tech companies have many protections from liability from the U.S. government,” Trump Jr. said. “Once they accept those protections and they cede that liability, which could be plenty, and they’re getting that benefit from the United States government, they lose the ability to say ‘We can do whatever we want.’”
“You can’t then decide, ‘Well, I only want to protect this class of people.’ If you tried doing that in any other business you’d be destroyed,” he said.
Trump Jr. said a ban on online political discrimination would be “very comparable” to prohibiting a university from conducting a race-based admissions process if it has access to funds from Pell Grants and other financial aid programs.
The president’s eldest son spoke to Zenger News in February at the Conservative Political Action Conference. He said “people in the Second Amendment movement, people who are pro-religious-liberty, people who are pro-life … [are] the only people that are actually getting censored.”
Trump Jr. said Google discriminates against conservatives by filtering some political messages in Gmail accounts, and not others. He said messages from the president’s re-election campaign are sometimes sent to “spam” while campaign emails from Democratic candidates were visible to recipients.
The president tweeted on Wednesday that Republicans believe social media platforms “totally silence conservatives voices.”
“We will strongly regulate, or close them down, before we can ever allow this to happen,” he said.
Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s Legal, Policy and Trust & Safety Lead, tweeted the company’s response.
“No one person at Twitter is responsible for our policies or enforcement actions. We are a team with different points of view and we stand behind our people and our decisions to protect the health of the public conversation on our platform,” she said.
Twitter stung the president on Tuesday by applying a fact-check label to one of his messages for the first time, calling “unsubstantiated” his claim that widespread mail-in balloting would result in uncontrollable election fraud.
One detail in that fact check document itself was incorrect. Twitter later fixed a line that suggested only some U.S. states permit Americans to cast votes through the mail. All 50 provide that option via absentee ballots.
Shortly after Twitter took the unprecedented step, Trump claimed in a tweet that the company “is interfering in the 2020 Presidential Election” and “stifling FREE SPEECH.” He said he “will not allow it to happen!”
Public Citizen, a liberal advocacy group, has branded many of the president’s statements as untrue.
Trump “would rather shut down the entire platform of Twitter than not be able to lie,” the group said in a statement, “and that says a lot.”