Trump signs an executive order taking direct aim at social media companies

Joanna Estrada
May 29, 2020

While slamming social media platforms' alleged editorial bias, the U.S. president told reporters that his executive order will remove the liability shield that now protects the platforms.

"Ironically, Donald Trump is a big beneficiary of Section 230", Ruane said. The Trump tweets in question falsely claimed that the governor of California was sending out mail-in ballots to "anyone living in the state, no matter who they are or how they got there".

The Electronic Frontier Foundation in a blog post said the order won't survive judicial scrutiny.

Legal experts said it was unclear if the Federal Communications Commission would embrace Trump's view of Section 230 laid out in the order.

Donald Trump has had it up to HERE with all these doggone rotten social media companies enabling him to reach hundreds of millions of Americans, and you'd better believe he's going to do something about it.

But the executive order still has the power to send a message to Silicon Valley that there is a growing political will to curb their powers.

"The law still protects social media companies like Twitter because they are considered forums not publishers", Mr Rubio said.

"The president is trying to frighten, coerce, scare, cajole social media companies to leave him alone and not do what Twitter has just done to him", said Yale University's constitutional law professor Jack Balkin.

After Twitter flagged a pair of President Trump's tweets with a fact-checking label on Tuesday, tensions between the president and his favored social media platform are running high.

President Donald Trump listens as Attorney General William Barr speaks before Trump signs an executive order aimed at curbing
Trump expected to sign order on social media

Before Thursday's executive order was issued, Facebook Chief Executive Office Mark Zuckerberg, appearing on the CNBC business channel, said he did not think "Facebook or internet platforms in general should be arbiters of truth".

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany did draw some distinction between Facebook and Twitter in an appearance on Fox News on Thursday.

Until now, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and others could have it both ways, insisting they were "platforms" and therefore not liable for user-generated content, while acting as "publishers" and actively deciding which content they would allow, using entirely arbitrary and ever-changing rules.

Twitter Chief Executive Jack Dorsey said Trump's tweets "may mislead people into thinking they don't need to register to get a ballot". Thus the self-styled civil libertarians on the left suddenly decided they actually love private corporations and hate government regulations, coming out in support of purging "hate speech" (a nonexistent category in USA law).

In a signing event, Trump said the action is designed "to defend free speech from one of the greatest dangers" while adding that Twitter, Facebook, and Google have "unchecked power".

The move immediately backfired, with experts disputing that Trump's tweet was in fact misleading, since mail-in balloting has been linked to ongoing fraud.

Trump was joined during the signing by Attorney General William Barr, who has previously expressed interest in stripping away or limiting the same legal protections for tech companies.

The order would also prohibit federal agencies from spending tax dollars on advertising with platforms that violate free speech. Republicans argue the law gives companies a licence to censor conservative voices, while Democrats fear it has allowed tech giants to avoid responsibility for the spread of misinformation and hate speech.

After initially saying it would not take action at "this time", a Twitter spokesperson told the Post that "after further review, we've added labels to these two tweets".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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