Following Feud With Twitter, Trump To Sign Executive Order On Social Media

Yolanda Curtis
May 29, 2020

President Donald Trump said he will introduce legislation that may scrap or weaken a law that has long protected internet companies, including Twitter and Facebook, an extraordinary attempt to intervene in the media that experts said was unlikely to survive legal scrutiny.

Steve DelBianco, president of NetChoice, a trade group that counts Twitter, Facebook and Google among its members, said the proposed executive order "is trampling the First Amendment by threatening the fundamental free speech rights of social media platforms". Legal observers described the action as "political theater", arguing that the order does not change existing federal law and will have no bearing on federal courts.

Before leaving Washington for Florida to watch a space launch that was postponed due to bad weather, Mr Trump again accused Twitter and other social media of bias, without offering evidence.

"Big action to follow", he tweeted.

What does the executive order say?

"It stands to undermine a variety of government efforts to protect public safety and spread critical information online through social media and threatens the vibrancy of a core segment of our economy".

UPDATE: May 28, 2020, 3:03 p.m. PDT: The final text of the executive order has been released, and, well, it doesn't appear to actually do that much.

It reads: "No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider".

"But if they have now chose to exercise an editorial role like a publisher, then they should no longer be shielded from liability and treated as publishers under the law".

How have the social networks responded?

Trump has a history of using executive orders to make political statements when his authority is limited.

She particularly took aim at Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's comments aired by Fox News on Wednesday.

"Of course, you know my view of this and I've said it before - Facebook, all of them, they are all about making money".

One conservative think tank warned the executive order could have unintended consequences. They get to, quote, fact-check that president of the United States, in an untruthful way, not fact check Chinese propaganda until we pointed out and they started doing it moments ago, but yet we don't get to ask who the fact-checkers are?' she said.

Mr. Barr will work with states on developing their own regulations, the president said.

What sparked the latest row?

Trump is reacting to Twitter fact-checking him for saying, falsely, that fraud was rampant with mail-in voting.

Twitter Chief Executive Jack Dorsey tweeted on Wednesday that Twitter would "continue to point out incorrect or disputed information about elections globally" but said "this does not make us an 'arbiter of truth'".

Mr Trump wrote a similar post about mail-in ballots on Facebook on Tuesday, and no such warnings were applied.

Twitter has tightened its policies in recent years as it faced criticism that its hands-off approach was helping fake accounts and misinformation to thrive.

Is Twitter stifling free speech?

Twitter says it enforces its rules "impartially for all users, regardless of their background or political affiliation".

"We have a different policy, I think, than Twitter on this", Zuckerberg told Dana Perino, host of the Fox News show The Daily Briefing, in an interview clip.

"The tweets in question contain potentially misleading and harmful content about COVID-19 and have been labeled to provide additional context to the public".

Other reports by iNewsToday