Republican presidential candidate and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, on Tuesday, called for name verification on all social media profiles saying anonymous accounts and bots spreading misinformation are a national security threat.
“When I get into office, the first thing we have to do, social media companies, they have to show America their algorithms. Let us see why they’re pushing, what they’re pushing,” Haley said in an interview with Fox News Tuesday.
The former U.N. ambassador blamed Russia, China, Iran and North Korea for spreading misinformation on social media that divides Americans.
“This is a national security threat,” Haley said during a Tuesday morning appearance on the “Ruthless Podcast,” where she first raised the idea of name verification on social media.
“They are giving the narrative to the American people, so you’ve got college kids everywhere on campuses thinking that they are fighting the occupation of Gaza. There are no Israelis in Gaza. There are no Jewish people in Gaza. There is only Hamas and Gaza.”
On Wednesday, on CNBC’s “Squawk Box,” Haley clarified she was not asking for a ban on Americans posting anonymously on social media sites.
“I don’t mind anonymous American people having free speech — what I don’t like is anonymous Russians and Chinese and Iranians having free speech,” Haley said.
“Russia, Iran and China, North Korea too, know that the cheapest form of warfare is to spread misinformation.”
Haley’s remarks were instantly met with pushback from her rivals.
On Wednesday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said on “The Glenn Beck Program” that “forcing disclosure of names and registration, that’s what China has done… that is totally inappropriate for the United States of America.”
DeSantis went on to say there’s a tradition of anonymous political speech in the U.S., noting that the Federalist Papers were published anonymously. “I wasn’t surprised she said it because I think that’s who she is. But it was totally out of bounds of what would be acceptable in the Republican Party,” he added.
A spokesperson for the Haley campaign said “Americans have a right to free speech, including having anonymous accounts on social media. What Nikki doesn’t support is letting the Chinese and Iranians create anonymous accounts to spread chaos and anti-American filth among our people.”
“They’re doing that as we speak, and it’s a national security threat. Social media companies have to do a way better job policing that. Clearly, Ron DeSantis wants to let Chinese propaganda machines run wild on social media without any restrictions,” the spokesperson added.
DeSantis and Haley have been battling for second place in early-voting states. Recent polling shows Haley has had some momentum coming out of a series of strong debate performances, bringing her to a tie with DeSantis in the latest Des Moines Register/NBC polling, which was published after the first two debates, but before the third debate.
Vivek Ramaswamy, who champions himself as a proponent of free speech, also joined in the criticism of Haley’s proposal, calling it “disgusting” and a “flagrant violation of the Constitution and straight out of the Democrats’ playbook.”
Ramaswamy, like DeSantis, brought up the Federalist Papers and said on X, “Alexander Hamilton, John Jay & James Madison wrote the Federalist Papers under pseudonym. Here’s what they would say to @NikkiHaley if they were alive: get your heels off my neck & go back to England.”
The ceo of X, Elon Musk, mocked Haley over the proposal for social media platforms. “Super messed up,” he posted. “She can stop pretending to run for president now.”
Conservatives have long pushed for less censorship of their views on social media. It’s part of the ongoing debate about how much responsibility tech companies should bear in preventing the spread of misinformation, especially by foreign actors.
In September, the State Department released a report saying Beijing continues to spend billions annually on information manipulation efforts by acquiring stakes in foreign media, through content censorship, sponsoring online influencers and by securing agreements that promote unlabeled Chinese government content. The U.S. warned this could lead to “less global freedom of expression.”
“Data harvested by People’s Republic of China corporations operating overseas have enabled Beijing to fine-tune global censorship by targeting specific individuals and organizations” the report stated.
A month before the report was released, social media giant Meta announced it had removed over 7,000 fake accounts on Facebook linked to Chinese law enforcement that were intent on pushing pro-China talking points. META at the time referred to it as “the largest known cross-platform covert influence operation in the world.”