Donald Trump to sign executive order on social media companies

Our Foreign Staff
Donald Trump returns to Washington after travel to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida - Reuters/Donald Trump returns to Washington after travel to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida

US President Donald Trump will sign an executive order on social media companies on Thursday, White House officials said after Mr Trump threatened to shut down the platform he accused of stifling conservative voices.

The officials, who spoke to reporters travelling with Mr Trump to Washington from Florida aboard Air Force One on Wednesday, gave no further details.

Before leaving for Florida earlier in the day to observe a space launch that was postponed because of bad weather, Mr Trump again accused Twitter Inc and other social media of bias without offering evidence.

It was unclear how Mr Trump could follow through on the threat of shutting down social media companies.

The American Civil Liberties Union said the First Amendment of the US Constitution limits any action Mr Trump could take to regulate such platforms.

Facebook Inc's Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg, commenting on Mr Trump's threats against social media companies, said censoring a platform would not be the "right reflex" for a government worried about censorship.

"I'll have to understand what they actually would intend to do, but in general I think a government choosing to censor a platform because they're worried about censorship doesn't exactly strike me as the right reflex there," Mr Zuckerberg said in an interview with Fox News Channel.

Fox played only a brief clip of the interview and said it would be aired in full on Thursday. 

Twitter declined comment on news of Mr Trump's plans and Google did not immediately comment.

Separately, a three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals in Washington on Wednesday upheld the dismissal of a suit brought by a conservative group and right-wing YouTube personality against Google, Facebook, Twitter and Apple alleging they conspired to suppress conservative political views.

Mr Trump's latest dispute with social media emerged after Twitter on Tuesday for the first time attached a warning to some of his tweets prompting readers to fact check the president's claims.

In the tweets tagged by Twitter, Mr Trump made unsubstantiated claims about mail-in voting. Mr Trump falsely claims that mail-in ballots lead to vote fraud and ineligible voters getting ballots.

"Republicans feel that Social Media Platforms totally silence conservatives voices. We will strongly regulate, or close them down, before we can ever allow this to happen," Mr Trump said in a pair of additional posts on Twitter on Wednesday.

The president, a heavy user of Twitter with more than 80 million followers, added: "Clean up your act, NOW!!!!"