- In a tweet Tuesday, President Donald Trump pressured Twitter to remove a meme poking fun at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
- The meme, shared by a user with less than 200 followers, depicts McConnell’s face photoshopped onto a Soviet Union soldier with the caption “Moscow Mitch.”
- Trump said lawmakers should repeal Section 230, a law that shields social networks from being held liable for users’ posts as long as they remove illegal content.
- Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Twitter’s policies ban content that’s explicitly meant to deceive people, and satire is generally allowed on the site.
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President Donald Trump raged against Twitter on Tuesday over a meme that labels Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as “Moscow Mitch,” questioning why the platform wouldn’t remove the image.
The meme depicts McConnell’s face crudely edited onto the body of a Soviet soldier, and was shared by an account that had just over 100 followers.
“Why does Twitter leave phony pictures like this up, but take down Republican/Conservative pictures and statements that are true?” Trump tweeted.
—Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 8, 2020
Trump has for months been nursing a grudge against Twitter, which recently applied warning labels to several of his tweets that violated its policies against promoting violence and spreading misinformation about voting. Trump reacted to those warning labels in May with an executive order listing grievances against social media companies and asking the Federal Communications Commission to crack down on them.
While Trump’s executive order was vague, it asked the FCC to reinterpret Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a law that shields websites from being held responsible for the content that users post as long as they make a good-faith effort to remove illegal content.
Republicans have honed in on Section 230 as a way to hit back at tech companies that they claim unfairly target conservatives with policies against misinformation. The evidence does not support that theory — data shows that conservative pages consistently generate the most engagement across social media sites.
Trump tagged Republican Sen. Josh Hawley in his tweet Tuesday. Hawley has introduced legislation that would strip tech companies’ legal immunity under Section 230 unless they can prove that they’re “politically neutral,” and has more recently introduced a bill that would make tech companies more vulnerable to lawsuits from users who believe online rules are being enforced unfairly.
—Josh Hawley (@HawleyMO) September 8, 2020
If Section 230 protections were repealed entirely, experts say most social media companies would not be able to afford the legal costs associated with maintaining an open forum.
A Twitter spokesperson did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment regarding Trump’s tweet. Twitter’s rules prohibit content that’s shared with the intent to deceive people; satire and memes are generally allowed on the platform.
Trump isn’t the first world leader to try to quash memes criticizing his party. China recently banned all online mentions of Winnie the Pooh after memes comparing President Xi Jinping to the cartoon bear went viral. In Russia, people who share a meme of President Vladimir Putin in drag makeup could face jail time.