Trump signs order targeting social media after tweets flagged for misinformation

Yolanda Curtis
May 29, 2020

The order comes a day after Trump accused Twitter of election interference, after it added fact-check links to two of his tweets. Section 230 is a law in the United States that essentially means that social media companies are allowed to remove or otherwise moderate the content that is posted to their sites without the sites being held legally responsible for the content that was allowed to remain un-moderated.

It also says "deceptive" blocking of posts, including removing a post for reasons other than those described in a website's terms of service, should not be offered immunity.

Beleaguered social media companies have been grappling with the disinformation era, whether from bots that sow discord, scurrilous political ads or valid users spreading inaccurate information.

"The choices Twitter makes when it chooses to edit, blacklist, shadowban are editorial decisions, pure and simple", Trump said during the signing.

"Twitter's head of site integrity has tweeted that there are, quote, "actual Nazis" in the White House, and no fact-check label was ever applied to this absolutely outrageous, offensive, and false claim made against the White House and its employees", she said.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey: We’ll continue to point out incorrect or disputed information about elections globally

"We're fed up with it", he said, claiming the order would uphold freedom of speech.

The draft executive order suggested that the platforms were now acting as gatekeepers in the way that they moderate third party content. Section 230 also does not hold platforms liable if they restrict access to "obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing or otherwise objectionable content". The executive order does not repeal Section 230.

"Currently social media giants like Twitter receive an unprecedented liability shield based on the theory that they're a neutral platform - which they are not - not an editor with a viewpoint", Trump said.

If Twitter itself start blunting one of his favourite communication tools, he is sending a message that he will push back - and make things, at a minimum, uncomfortable for the company.

Some analysts claimed the president's arguments against Twitter had turned upside down the interpretation of the constitution's First Amendment, created to prevent the government from limiting free expression. They tried hard in 2016, and lost.

In an interview with Fox News on Wednesday, Facebook's chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, said censoring a social media platform would not be the "right reflex" for a government concerned about censorship.

"I think it's much more of just a leadership statement, or a mission statement, than a blueprint for anything that's really going to happen", Randazza said. I expect those companies, and every American who participates in online speech, to resist this illegal act by all possible means.

"Our platforms have empowered a wide range of people and organizations from across the political spectrum, giving them a voice and new ways to reach their audiences".

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

The draft order, as written, attempts to circumvent Congress and the courts in directing changes to long-established interpretations of Section 230. The president has repeatedly said, without evidence, that expanding mail-in voting will lead to widespread voter fraud and that Democrats will use absentee ballots to "rig" the election.

"If it were able to be legally shut down, I would do it", Trump said of Twitter.

"We can't let this continue to happen", Trump said.

"If platforms were not immune under the law, then they would not risk the legal liability that could come with hosting Donald Trump's lies, defamation and threats", she added.

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

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