White House launches tool for social media censorship complaints

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The White House launched a tool on Wednesday that will allow any U.S. citizen to submit a complaint if they think they were unfairly censored on social media platforms.

Why it matters: Social media bias has become a major talking point for President Trump and conservatives who argue that Silicon Valley companies are biased against their viewpoints.

Be smart: This attitude demonstrates a complete reversal of the president's stance toward social media platforms since he was inaugurated in 2017.

  • At that time, the president told Axios that he liked platforms like Twitter and Facebook because they allowed him to reach voters in an unrestricted way, unlike the mainstream media.
  • Today, Trump uses Twitter as his main communications vehicle, often sending dozens of tweets in a single day.

Details: The new form begins by asking users to submit basic information about themselves, like their first and last names. It then asks users if they are citizens.

  • If a user clicks "yes," the form continues. If a user clicks "no," a screen pops up saying: "Unfortunately, we can't gather your response through this form. Please feel free to contact us at WhiteHouse.gov/contact."
  • The tool asks users to click which platform they've experienced bias on: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube or Other. It asks users to link to the suspected post and post a screenshot from the platform, if applicable, of the rule violation notification.

Skeptics were quick to point out that the online form was not very sophisticated and could be easily gamed by anyone who wanted to troll the administration.

  • For example, the "captcha" response test used at the end of the survey to determine if the respondent is a bot asks users to type the year the Declaration of Independence was signed.
  • "I tried it with '1945,' it cleared it. You just need to type four numbers," tweeted Quentin Hardy, head of editorial at Google Cloud.

Between the lines: The White House says the tool is meant to help people share stories about ways they were unfairly targeted by social platforms for free speech, but the online form where users can submit requests also appears to be an email collection mechanism.

  • "We want to keep you posted on President Trump's fight for free speech," the form states after a few questions. "Can we add you to our email newsletters so we can update you without relying on platforms like Facebook and Twitter?"

Our thought bubble: The move is yet another example of ways the administration has chosen to tackle issues unilaterally, as opposed to working with bigger institutions or bodies to enact change.

  • The White House launched the tool just hours after it broke with more than a dozen world leaders and top technology companies in an international call to action around the rise of online extremism on social platforms.

Additional Stories

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3 p.m. ET: 5,462,447 — Total deaths: 346,293 — Total recoveries — 2,191,461Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3 p.m. ET: 1,653,904 — Total deaths: 97,948 — Total recoveries: 366,736 — Total tested: 14,163,915Map.
  3. World: Italy reports lowest number of new cases since February — Ireland reports no new coronavirus deaths on Monday for the first time since March 21 — WHO suspends trial of hydroxychloroquine over safety concerns.
  4. 2020: Trump threatens to move Republican convention from North Carolina — Joe Biden makes first public appearance in two months.
  5. Public health: Officials are urging Americans to wear masks over Memorial Day.
  6. Economy: New York stock exchange to reopen its floor on Tuesday — White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett says it's possible the unemployment rate could still be in double digits by November's election — Charities refocus their efforts to fill gaps left by government.
  7. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredTraveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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Italy reports lowest number of new coronavirus cases since February

Italy’s aerobatic team Frecce Tricolori fly over Milan in Duomo Square on May 25. Photo: Francesco Prandoni/Getty Images

The Italian government reported 300 new cases of coronavirus on Monday, the lowest daily increase since Feb. 29.

Why it matters: Italy, the first country in Europe to implement a nationwide lockdown after emerging as a hotspot in March, appears to have finally weathered its coronavirus outbreak. Italy has reported nearly 33,000 total deaths, the third-highest total behind the U.S. and U.K.

Joe Biden makes first public appearance in over two months

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Former Vice President Joe Biden made his first in-person appearance in over two months on Monday to honor Memorial Day by laying a wreath at a Delaware veterans park, AP reports.

Why it matters: Biden, the Democratic Party's presumptive nominee, has taken the unprecedented step of campaigning from his home during the coronavirus pandemic, ever since canceling a rally in Cleveland on March 10.

WHO temporarily suspends trial of hydroxychloroquine over safety concerns

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The World Health Organization is temporarily pausing tests of the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine as a coronavirus treatment in order to review safety concerns, the agency's director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesu said Monday.

Why it matters: The decision comes after a retrospective review published in The Lancet found that coronavirus patients who took hydroxychloroquine or its related drug chloroquine were more likely to die or develop an irregular heart rhythm that can lead to sudden cardiac death, compared to those who did nothing.

Dominic Cummings: "I respectfully disagree" that I broke U.K. lockdown rules

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Dominic Cummings, the top aide to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, defended himself at a press conference Monday against allegations that he broke the U.K.'s coronavirus lockdown rules by traveling to his parents' home last month while exhibiting symptoms.

What he said: "I respectfully disagree. The legal rules do not necessarily cover all circumstances, especially the ones I found myself in," Cummings told the assembled press.

Netanyahu says July 1 deadline for West Bank annexation won't change

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday at a Likud Party faction meeting at the Knesset, Israel's parliament, that his July 1 deadline for starting the process of annexation in the West Bank will not change, according to people in attendance.

Why it matters: The White House and the State Department have stressed over the last few weeks that the deadline set by Netanyahu is "not sacred" to the Trump administration — and that any discussion of annexation needs to be in the context of renewed Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Trump threatens to move Republican convention from North Carolina if capacity reduced

President Trump on stage during the 2016 Republican National Convention in Ohio. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images

President Trump threatened in a series of Monday tweets to move this summer's Republican National Convention from Charlotte if North Carolina's Democratic governor, Roy Cooper, doesn't allow the event to be held at full capacity.

The state of play: Mandy Cohen, the state's health and human services secretary, said last week that the GOP should "plan for the worst" as mass gatherings will be a "very big challenge" if the number of coronavirus cases in the state continues to increase, per NPR.

The wreckage of summer

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

We usually think of Memorial Day as the start of the summer, with all of the fun and relaxation that goes with it — but this one is just going to remind us of all of the plans that have been ruined by the coronavirus.

Why it matters: If you thought it was stressful to be locked down during the spring, just wait until everyone realizes that all the traditional summer activities we've been looking forward to are largely off-limits this year.

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