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May 27, 2020, 12:00 p.m. EDT

‘Totally absurd and legally illiterate’ — Harvard law prof on Trump’s charge Twitter is stifling free speech

Trump threatens Twitter with ‘big action’ but offers no specifics

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By Robert Schroeder, MarketWatch


Bloomberg News/Landov
Twitter’s tagging of President Donald Trump’s claims about write-in voting are ‘absolutely protected’ under the First Amendment, says a Harvard constitutional-law expert.

President Donald Trump is charging that Twitter is attacking free speech as it adds fact checks to some of his tweets, and is threatening to go after social-media giants. But he has no case, argues a Harvard law professor.

‘Trump’s statement that Twitter, a private company, is abridging his First Amendment freedom of speech by tagging his wild tweets about write-in voter fraud as misleading is totally absurd and legally illiterate.’

Harvard Law Professor Laurence Tribe

In a thread on his own Twitter /zigman2/quotes/203180645/composite TWTR +2.03%   account, constitutional law expert Laurence Tribe writes that the social-media platform’s tagging of the president’s claims about write-in voting is “absolutely protected under the First Amendment as an expression of opinion.”

The latest broadside against social-media companies by Trump came after Twitter on Tuesday said the president’s tweets about voting by mail contained “potentially misleading information about voting processes and have been labeled to provide additional context around mail-in ballots.”

As The Wall Street Journal reported, there was an error in Twitter’s initial fact-check of Trump’s tweets. The company later corrected the mistake, which involved all-mail voting and absentee ballots.

Read: Twitter adds fact-check warning label to Trump’s tweets for first time.

Also see: Trump threatens to ‘close’ social-media platforms as he fights with Twitter.

In addition to threatening to “close” social-media platforms on Wednesday morning, Trump also said “big action to follow” against Twitter in particular.

Wednesday’s threats, meanwhile, were not the first time Trump has gone after social-media companies, or Twitter specifically. He has in the past charged Google /zigman2/quotes/205453964/composite GOOG -2.38%   /zigman2/quotes/202490156/composite GOOGL -2.42%  search results for news about him contained only “fake” news, and said Twitter “should be sued” over “what’s happening with the bias.”

Twitter declined to comment on the president’s threat to “close” social-media companies.

Now read: Joe Biden campaign names national director for voter protection.

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Robert Schroeder is the White House reporter for MarketWatch. Follow him on Twitter @mktwrobs.

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