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Haley calls for name verification on social media, drawing pushback from GOP rivals

<i>Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images</i><br/>Former South Carolina governor and United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley speaks during the third Republican presidential primary debate in Miami
Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images
Former South Carolina governor and United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley speaks during the third Republican presidential primary debate in Miami

By Aaron Pellish and Kit Maher, CNN

(CNN) — Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley on Tuesday said she would push for social media users to identify by their legal names online, drawing pushback from her GOP rivals Ron DeSantis and Vivek Ramaswamy.

“Every person on social media should be verified by their name. It’s a national security threat. When you do that, people have to stand by what they say. It gets rid of the Russian bots, and China and Iranian bots,” Haley told Fox News Tuesday.

DeSantis called Haley’s proposal “dangerous and unconstitutional,” which he said was akin to China’s policy.

“You know who were anonymous writers back in the day? Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison when they wrote the Federalist Papers,” the Florida Republican governor posted on X with a clip of the interview, evoking the authors of a series of essays written anonymously that helped shape the framing of the Constitution.

“They were not ‘national security threats,’ nor are the many conservative Americans across the country who exercise their Constitutional right to voice their opinions without fear of being harassed or canceled by the school they go to or the company they work for,” he said.

Ramaswamy called Haley’s comments “disgusting” and suggested her stance should disqualify her from the presidency.

@NikkiHaley is *openly* pushing for the government to use private tech companies to censor speech. This is a flagrant violation of the Constitution and straight out of the Democrats’ playbook. Any politician who thinks it’s OK for the government to use the private sector as its censorship bureau shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near the White House,” Ramaswamy wrote on social media in response.

“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,” he added.

The aggressive pushback to Haley comes as GOP candidates vie to emerge as the top alternative to the party’s formidable front-runner, former President Donald Trump.

In response to the criticism, a Haley spokesperson told CNN: “We all know that America’s enemies use anonymous bots to spread anti-American lies and sow chaos and division within our borders. Nikki believes social media companies need to do a better job of verifying users so we can crack down on Chinese, Iranian, and Russian bots. That’s common sense.”

Haley on Wednesday reiterated her stance, saying it was necessary to root out foreign adversaries who are using social media platforms to spread misinformation.

“Social media has become a national security issue. I think social media companies need to show us their algorithms, be transparent to the American people,” Haley said.

Each of the major US social media companies has programs in place to identify and remove coordinated inauthentic activity seeking to manipulate their platforms, including bot accounts from foreign actors. Many of the major platforms also offer verification options meant to allow users to confirm they are the real person behind their account name, and to help other users understand their authenticity.

But anonymity and pseudonyms have long been part of the fabric of social media, allowing users who want to to speak more freely or take on alternate identities. Anonymity on social media is considered especially important in areas of the world with more restrictive speech laws.

And some social media verification schemes are more effective than others at ensuring the authenticity of the users behind verified accounts. Information integrity experts have raised concerns that simply allowing users to pay for verification, as is now the policy on X (formerly Twitter), is unlikely to prevent all inauthentic and bot activity either, especially from well-funded foreign propaganda groups.

Pushed further on whether she was against complete anonymity on social media platforms, Haley said on Wednesday that she believes “life would be more civil” under such a scenario but added that she is only against anonymity for foreign adversaries.

Political speech on social media has become a flash point for conservatives, who have argued that tech companies, in coordination with the federal government, have targeted them for censorship over their views.

CNN’s Ebony Davis and Clare Duffy contributed to this report.

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