Photo: Tasos Katopodis (Getty Images)
Today in squirmy little squids squirting clouds of ink: Twitter trends that make the president look bad are somehow illegal, according to the president.
“So disgusting to watch Twitter’s so-called ‘Trending’, where sooo many trends are about me, and never a good one,” Donald Trump tweeted on Twitter, the site where he tweets anything he wants, on Monday. “They look for anything they can find, make it as bad as possible, and blow it up, trying to make it trend. Really ridiculous, illegal, and, of course, very unfair!”
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The president didn’t clarify whether he was referring to Twitter’s curated Explore section, its location-based trending section, or its personalized “What’s happening” module. He also didn’t state what imaginary law was broken or why he is doubling down on his ongoing feud with Twitter mods in the middle of a surging pandemic with nearly 148,000 confirmed deaths nationwide. (Just kidding, it neatly aligns with the White House’s strategy of staging arbitrary, authoritarian political stunts to project strength.)
It’s possible that Trump was referring to an executive order issued in May threatening insufficiently sycophantic websites with loss of their Communications Decency Act Section 230 protections against lawsuits, which experts told Gizmodo was hot, legally unworkable garbage. The Commerce Department asked the Federal Communications Commission to move forward on implementing the policy on Monday, though it’s an open question whether the FCC will take any real action. It’s also possible that the tweet rolled out of Trump’s stream of consciousness pseudo-randomly—the words Twitter, illegal, and unfair are all there!—and no broader thought process was involved in its construction.
Anyhow, Twitter trends which do not flatter the president are not illegal for the time being, as evidenced by numerous lawsuits launched by right-wingers asserting anti-conservative censorship and bias at tech firms. In every single instance, those suits have either been thrown out by courts or resulted in First Amendment wins by social media companies involved.
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