Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley backtracked Wednesday after her proposal to require social media platforms to verify users' identities appeared to touch a third rail of right-wing politics.
Citing national security concerns, Haley told multiple outlets on Tuesday that she thought social platforms should be required to verify all their users by name, because countries like Russia, China, Iran and North Korea use anonymous accounts to sow chaos and division in U.S. politics. (She’s right on this point, FYI).
Fellow candidates Ron DeSantis and Vivek Ramaswamy attacked Haley's suggestions — each in his own exaggerated way — on... social media. DeSantis compared anonymous social media accounts to the authors of the Federalist Papers, seemingly lumping James Madison and @catturd2 into the same group.
And Ramaswamy — rarely one for brevity — called Haley’s stance “disgusting.”
Social media mogul Elon Musk, posting from his X account, joined the Haley pile-on, as well.
The former ambassador to the U.N. has softened her stance since then, claiming she doesn’t mind anonymous American accounts — it's just the “anonymous Russians and Chinese and Iranians having free speech” that she doesn't like.
It doesn’t come as a surprise that conservatives railed against Haley’s suggestion. The bulk of the conservative movement opposes online content moderation, particularly any efforts to?prevent the spread of hate speech and disinformation on social media platforms. Any requirement that could strip users of their anonymity would expose the people responsible for spewing right-wing propaganda. And it could expose armies of inauthentic social media accounts (i.e., bots) that are created to sway political dialogue online.
I happen to agree with Tuesday Nikki Haley that social media verification is a necessity for anyone truly looking to curb (if not completely eliminate) online disinformation.
The right’s rage at Haley on this issue deserves more attention. We ought to see the tantrum as evidence that conservative leaders know that, on the culture's current trajectory, their political futures will rely on an ability to manipulate and misinform people online. As Haley appears to have learned, anyone and everyone who might take that ability from them will meet fierce opposition.