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Trump signs executive order aimed at curbing protections for social media giants

WASHINGTON, DC — President Donald Trump signed an executive order targeting social media companies on Thursday, days after Twitter called two of his tweets “potentially misleading.”

The order challenges the liability protections that have served as a bedrock for unfettered speech on the internet and tests the boundaries of the White House’s authority.

In a long-shot legal bid, it seeks to curtail the power of large social media platforms by reinterpreting a critical 1996 law that shields websites and tech companies from lawsuits.

The move appears to be more about politics than substance, as the president aims to rally supporters after he lashed out at Twitter for applying fact checks to two of his tweets.

Trump said the fact checks were “editorial decisions” by Twitter and amounted to political activism. He said it should cost those companies their protection from lawsuits for what is posted on their platforms.

Trump, who personally relies heavily on Twitter to verbally flog his foes, has long accused the tech giants in liberal-leaning Silicon Valley of targeting conservatives by fact-checking them or removing their posts.

“We’re fed up with it,” Trump said, claiming the order would uphold freedom of speech.

It directs executive branch agencies to ask independent rule-making agencies including the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission to study whether they can place new regulations on the companies – though experts express doubts much can be done without an act of Congress.

Companies like Twitter and Facebook are granted liability protection under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act because they are treated as “platforms,” rather than “publishers,” which can face lawsuits over content.

A similar executive order was previously considered by the administration but shelved over concerns it couldn’t pass legal muster and that it violated conservative principles on deregulation and free speech.

“They’ve had unchecked power to censor, restrict, edit, shape, hide, alter virtually any form of communication between private citizens or large public audiences,” Trump said of social media companies as he prepared to sign the order. “There is no precedent in American history for so small a number of corporations to control so large a sphere of human interaction.”

Trump and his campaign reacted after Twitter added a warning phrase to two Trump tweets that called mail-in ballots “fraudulent” and predicted “mail boxes will be robbed.” Under the tweets, there’s now a link reading “Get the facts about mail-in ballots” that guides users to a page with fact checks and news stories about Trump’s unsubstantiated claims.

Trump accused Twitter of interfering in the 2020 presidential election” and declared “as president, I will not allow this to happen.” His campaign manager, Brad Parscale, said Twitter’s “clear political bias” had led the campaign to pull “all our advertising from Twitter months ago.” In fact, Twitter has banned political advertising since last November.

Late Wednesday, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted, “We’ll continue to point out incorrect or disputed information about elections globally.”

Dorsey added: “This does not make us an ‘arbiter of truth.’ Our intention is to connect the dots of conflicting statements and show the information in dispute so people can judge for themselves.”

On the other hand, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told Fox News his platform has “a different policy, I think, than Twitter on this.”

“I just believe strongly that Facebook shouldn’t be the arbiter of truth of everything that people say online,” he said.

The president’s critics, meanwhile, scolded the platforms for allowing him to put forth false or misleading information that could confuse voters.

“Donald Trump’s order is plainly illegal,” said Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat and advocate for internet freedoms. He is “desperately trying to steal for himself the power of the courts and Congress. … All for the ability to spread unfiltered lies.”

Trump’s proposal has multiple, serious legal problems and is unlikely to survive a challenge, according to Matt Schruers, president of the Computer and Communications Industry Association, a Washington-based organization that represents computer and internet companies.

It would also seem to be an assault on the same online freedom that enabled social media platforms to flourish in the first place – and made them such an effective microphone for Trump and other politicians.

“The irony that is lost here is that if these protections were to go away social media services would be far more aggressive in moderating content and terminating accounts,” Schruers said. “Our vibrant public sphere of discussion would devolve into nothing more than preapproved soundbites.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said it was “outrageous” that while Twitter had put a fact-check tag on Trump’s tweets asserting massive mail-in election fraud, it had not removed his tweets suggesting without evidence that a TV news host had murdered an aide years ago.

“Their business model is to make money at the expense of the truth and the facts that they know,” she said of social media giants, also mentioning Facebook. She said their goal is to avoid taxes “and they don’t want to be regulated, so they pander to the White House.”

The president and fellow conservatives have been claiming, for years, that Silicon Valley tech companies are biased against them. But there is no evidence for this – and while the executives and many employees of Twitter, Facebook and Google may lean liberal, the companies have stressed they have no business interest in favoring on political party over the other.

The trouble began in 2016, two years after Facebook launched a section called “trending,” using human editors to curate popular news stories. Zuckerberg met with prominent right-wing leaders at the time in an attempt at damage control, and in 2018, Facebook shut down the “trending” section,.

In August 2018, Trump accused Google of biased searches and warned the company to “be careful.” Google pushed back sharply, saying Trump’s claim simply wasn’t so, and experts suggested his comments showed a misunderstanding of how search engines work.

Last year, Trump again blasted social media companies after Facebook banned a slew of extremist figures including conspiracy peddler Alex Jones from its site and from Instagram.

Meanwhile, the companies are gearing up to combat misinformation around the November elections. Twitter and Facebook have begun rolling out dozens of new rules to avoid a repeat of the false postings about the candidates and the voting process that marred the 2016 election.

The coronavirus pandemic has further escalated the platforms’ response, leading them to take actions against politicians – a move they’ve long resisted – who make misleading claims about the virus.

Last month, Twitter began a “Get the Facts” label to direct social media users to news articles from trusted outlets next to tweets containing misleading or disputed information about the virus.

Even as he and his supporters complain of bias on the platform, Trump has used Twitter to build a potent and vocal online following. The president’s account currently has more than 80 million followers.

Trump’s success on social media suggests that his proposal may be more about politics than an actual interest in regulation, according to Rutgers University media professor John Pavlik, who studies the impact of technology on society and government.

Pavlik said that by trying to intimidate the platforms now, he’s seeking to control how the 2020 campaign plays out online and “about appealing to his base.”

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CNN

Associated Press

Comments

49 Comments

  1. If he wouldn’t lie so much they wouldn’t have to fact check him. It’s long overdue. Of course his uneducated base are the only ones that believe anything he says but it still needed to be done. My question is, why are they just now checking this pathological liar? The voter fraud thing was long ago debunked, and no one falls for that anymore. Republicans are just afraid of what will happen if more people vote. They said it themselves. “If everyone voted, Republicans could never get elected to any office.” Maybe in the deep deep south where there is an abundance of ignorant and uneducated folks, but nowhere else. They’ve been running up that phony flag since Clinton was elected and still haven’t come up with the slightest bit of evidence. The executive orders of the orange buffoon are dead on arrival in even the most conservative of federal courts and Barr told him so, but as usual, a buffoon does not listen to his advisors. Hence, the term “buffoon”.

    1. “Like your plan, keep our plan”, “Trump colluded with Russia”, “Trump used his position for political gain”, “Hydroxycloriquin is dangerous”, “2.2 million people will die from Chinese virus thanks to Trump”. All leftist lies that have all been debunked yet allowed to be spewed all over Twitter without question.

    2. Very good talking points Mark. 45 should be signing orders to get PPE to healthcare professionals instead of this nonsense. Not surprising though and yes his base are ignorant.

      1. Don’t worry he can do both. He’s been juggling Democratic hoaxes and simultaneously flawlessly fixing the country for 3 years. He’s got this. Sleep easy sunshine.

    1. He has curbed nothing. The executive orders are meaningless legally. In order to do what he wants to do, he will have to get around the 1st Amendment and the federal courts where his little tantrum will meet its end. Facts, the truth, and the law are hard things for a despot to overcome. Also what the orange buffoon wants to do will take a revision of the law in congress. I don’t look for Nancy to be receptive to proposing any law in the House that will re-write the laws protecting platforms like twitter from assaults on the first amendment. However if one of these platforms liables the buffoon, he would have a cause of action.

          1. Also they are not being silenced. They are being fact checked after they make untrue statements. The untrue statement is just juxtaposed with the truth. No silence.

          2. if that were true, which it isn’t, then why aren’t Adam Schiff, Nancy Pelosi, James Comey, Joe Biden, Brian Stelter, Hillary Clinton, Kathy Griffin and the thousands of others (including you probably) who are lying about our President daily being silenced?

      1. However remember the Supreme Court case Falwell v. Hustler Magazineb? In that case the Court ruled that public figures do not have the same protections against liable as does the private citizen. Falwell was a well known scumbag so when he was parodied in Hustler, his public persona was just open to scorn he cettainly deserved.

  2. Well, when he gets re-elected and the Republicans have control of both the Senate and House, laws will be passed, letting the FCC regulate these leftist companies and restore free speech for ALL Americans, not just the left.

  3. You are not understanding. No one is silenced. The orange buffoon can continue to lie as is his First Amendment right. BUT the fact checkers have a First Amendment Right to tell the truth. No one is being silenced.

    1. They are being silenced. You just don’t know that because they are reliable sources that you are not aware of it because you don’t care to listen. And please stop using 3rd grade humor and referring to our President as an Orange Buffoon. Is that the kind of childish humor you used to lure your victims you sick SOB.

      1. The man has turned his skin orange by using medically unsound tanning lotions and uva light. He is orange. He refuses to listen to his advisors. That makes him a buffoon. Hence the term “Orange Buffoon”. No way around it.

  4. He is complaining about Twitter and how they deal with “him” and have to point it out that when the posts he is posting as a President – an elected official – not a private citizen. His rights are not the same as a private citizen. He really needs to read the constitution it does not apply to him in this instance. We have people dying and he is throwing a tantrum because Twitter made him upset. Really?

    1. That’s what you liberals don’t get. He doesn’t do what he does for himself. It’s not about him. He does for America. There are millions of patriots being silenced, suspended from Twitter for fighting for what they believe in. While at the same time lying Schiff and lying Biden and all the rest are allowed to make-up whatever nonsense they want without penalty. James Woods and Candace Owen get suspended constantly for providing valuable information to America. This is for them and patriots like them.

      1. None of you people understand that because your talking head, lying liberal sheep herders are ever suspended, no matter what BS they make up.

      2. What has he done for America? Got a tax break passed for the wealthy and increased the deficit. Allowed coal companies to return to putting mercury into the air, tried to allow oil drilling in environmentally sensitive lands, kidnapped innocent children whose families were seeking a better life, made us the laughing stock of the world, caused thousands of farmers to lose their farms, tried to reduce health care for poor women, ignored global warming and man made climate change, the list goes on and on. What is it you think this piece of human scum has done for you and the country?

          1. Well except the global warming part. You’re right about that. We all know that’s a hoax so why should he spent time on it.

        1. IF that were true, then like I’ve said a dozen times, then Adam Schiff and the rest of the lying dems and liberal lying MSM should also be suspended. You don’t see the double standard right in your face.

  5. We have thousands of reliable news outlets in our great country that tell the truth everyday. I get my news from many of them. Mostly NPR and the PBS newshour. Outlets with unassailable credibility.

    1. Oh that explains a lot. NPR is one of the biggest left leaning fake news outlets around. Did you start listening to that when you were in prison? Was that your punishment for what you did to those poor kids?

      1. What poor kids? I think you have me mixed up with the other guy of the same name. See that’s how you right wing wack jobs work and thats why you get fact checked. You believe anything and lie about everything.

        1. No way. That is way too big to be just a coincidence. 2 white dudes in El Paso with the same name and same age. No way. We know who you are. And if we are wrong so what. You lie about Trump everyday so I guess what goes around comes around. . Except it’s not wrong. Its you. Have a good evening sicko.

          1. Not the same age moron. Im 58 the other guy is 74. See thats exactly why you idiots have to be fact checked.

          2. Nobody lies about the orange buffoon. He just appears on the news feeds and puts himself out there. No one has to say anything about him. All you have to do is listen to him.

    1. It doesn’t matter. Again you miss the point. If being credible was the mark for not getting not getting suspended on Twitter then are allowed Adam Shiff, Brian Stelter, James Comey allowed to make up BS on Twitter daily. They are the least credible people out there ad yet are allowed to tweet whatever they can make-up.

  6. You and people like you can’t win. Good always overcomes evil. Scum like the orange buffoon and his Nazi followers will be a nightmare in the rear view mirror for our great country in the next few months.

    1. Dude. Look around. We are winning. Trump has manage to win out over a hoax collusion scam, a hoax impeachment scam, he’s handling a Chinese virus. Every coup attempt that comes at him he defeats. He’s fixed the economy once and he’s about to do it again. He will succeed in shutting down the border, he will get off of Chinas teet. Winning, winning, winning. That’s why you hate him so much and why you are so angry all the time. Winning, winning, winning.

      1. He’s won at nothing. Evidently you are unaware of the current polls. Biden is ahead by an average of 8 points. So, the orange buffoon is not currently winning. I got that poll result from FOX news, the Republican channel. He may win later, but as of now he is not.

        1. Polls mean nothing. You’d think you would have learned your lesson last time around. You want to know why? Millions of people like me give false info on polls. I tell every pollster that it’s Biden all the way. It’s easy to fool them too. All I have to do is stutter and drool a little and they buy it every time. Hook, line and sinker. The silent majority is real. Besides anyone who would vote for Biden have no sense. The fact that anyone would vote for him is a very scary thought. Democratic incompetence is the true pandemic. Unfortunately, there is no cure.

      2. The big win has been at the U.S. Supreme Court. When Ginsburg croaks it will be icing on the cake. BTW – That moron markturner is preaching to the choir. He is just too stupid to realize it.

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