Tech and social media stocks slipped lower Thursday, led by an extended decline for Twitter Inc. (TWTR) - Get Free Report, after White House officials said President Donald Trump would sign an executive order aimed at curbing the industry's influence.
Bloomberg said the order could increase the litigation risk for social media companies by having the Federal Communications Commission fine-tune rules on removing or censuring user content. At present, social media companies need only to act in 'good faith' when acting on inappropriate material.
Bloomberg also reported that the Department of Justice could be asked to convene a panel of states Attorneys General to review spending and operational practices on social media platforms.
The executive order threat follows a series of Tweets from the President aimed at what he deemed unfair and biased treatment of 'conservative voices' on social media platforms following the fact-checking of a message on voter fraud by Twitter executives.
Twitter shares were marked 3.84% lower in pre-market trading Thursday, following a 2.8% slump yesterday, to indicate an opening bell price of $31.80 each. Facebook (FB) - Get Free Report shares slumped 1.3% and were last seen at $226.15 each while Google and YouTube parent Alphabet Inc. (GOOGL) - Get Free Report shares were little-changed at $1,420.28 each. Apple Inc. (AAPL) - Get Free Report, meanwhile, fell 0.44% to $316.71 each.
Trump said Twitter's move to fact-check his assertions of voter fraud and ballot registration are 'completely stifling free speech', even as he continued to freely express his views on the site's free social media platform to his 80.3 million followers.
"We can’t let a more sophisticated version of that happen again. Just like we can’t let large scale Mail-In Ballots take root in our Country," Trump added. "It would be a free for all on cheating, forgery and the theft of Ballots. Whoever cheated the most would win. Likewise, Social Media. Clean up your act, NOW!!!!"
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said the fact-check was necessary as the Tweets "may mislead people into thinking they don’t need to register to get a ballot", adding the company would update the link on the President's Tweets to "make this more clear."
"This does not make us an “arbiter of truth.”," Dorsey said via his verified Twitter account. "Our intention is to connect the dots of conflicting statements and show the information in dispute so people can judge for themselves."
"More transparency from us is critical so folks can clearly see the why behind our actions," he added.
That may not be enough to satisfy the President, nor lawmakers from both sides of the aisle as they consider changes to the Communications Decency Act that, for the most part, exempts companies from taking responsibility for content posted by their user base.
"Why should @twitter continue to get special treatment from government as a mere distributor of other people’s content if you are going to editorialize and comment like a publisher?," Republican Senator Josh Hawley asked last night on his verified Twitter account. "Shouldn’t you be treated like publisher?"