After days of Twitter messages hinting at action, President Trump targeted social media giants with a new executive order aimed at limiting their legal liability protections. Earlier this week, the President expressed his distaste at being fact-checked by Twitter for tweets surrounding mail-in vote fraud.
With Attorney William Barr present, Trump announced “We’re here today to defend free speech from one of the greatest dangers it has faced in American history,” Trump said before signing the executive order in the Oval Office.
“My executive order further instructed the Federal Trade Commission to prohibit social media companies from engaging in any deceptive acts or practices,”
The order calls for new regulations under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The original act, initiated by a 1996 landmark federal law, exempted online platforms from legal liability for material posted by their users, allowing them to be treated more like publishers.
Moving forward, the regulations would have the potential to expose tech companies like Facebook and Twitter to more civil liability through lawsuits.
Trump’s executive order doesn’t repeal Section 230, it sets up a rule-making procedure that will eventually be under the FCC [Federal Communications Commission] to try to get back to the original interpretation and understanding of Section 230.” Barr stated,
“It also empowers the Attorney General to work with state attorneys general to come up with model legislation that addresses this mistake,” Barr said. “And we’re preparing federal legislation, which we’ll be sending over shortly, for the consideration of the Office of Management budget.”
Barr stated that the original law has been “completely stretched” to allow “behemoths who control a lot of the flow of information in our society to engage in censorship of that information and to act as editors and publishers of the material.”
Of note for everyday users of social media platforms who have endured unjust shadow-banning or outright censorship, Trump’s new order calls for a review by the FCC of “unfair or deceptive acts or practices” by Big Tech giants leading to the possibility of the firms forfeiting the protections under Section 230.
When asked by a reporter during the signing of the executive order whether Trump would delete his Twitter account, the president said, “If you weren’t fake. I would do it in a heartbeat. If we had a fair press in this country, I would do that in a heartbeat. There’s nothing I’d rather do than get rid of my own Twitter account.”