(Natural News) President Donald Trump has signed an executive order directing federal agencies to develop new regulations under an existing law that protects social media companies from being sued for user content.
The regulations are aimed to protect users from unfair or deceptive content restriction practices that may be employed by these companies.
The order, signed by Trump on May 28, may force social media giants such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to ease their current content restrictions, especially those regarding political speech or they risk losing significant liability protections.
Trump’s decision to sign the order is seen as an escalation of his ongoing spat with Twitter.
The social media platform recently came into the spotlight after it annotated two of Trump’s tweets regarding mail-in ballots with a “fact-checking” label.
This move from the social media website, Trump said, is tantamount to election interference.
“The choices that Twitter makes when it chooses to suppress, edit, blacklist, shadowban are editorial decisions, pure and simple,” the president said, adding that by “fact-checking” his tweets, the social media platform “ceased” to become a neutral entity, and instead, became an “editor.”
Twitter launched its fact-checking labels early this year in a bid to combat the spread of what it called “misinformation” regarding the Wuhan coronavirus on its platform.
Trump, in a statement, accused Twitter of “selectively applying” its fact-check labeling, noting that the San Francisco-based company has the power to choose what to fact-check and what to ignore or promote on its site. (Related: Twitter to add warning labels to “misleading” coronavirus tweets – but who’s fact-checking Twitter?)
The order signed by Trump calls for the creation of new regulations under section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, all of which will ensure that social media companies that engage in any sort of “censoring” or “political conduct” will be stripped of their liability shields.
As stipulated in the constitution, Section 230 largely exempts online platforms such as social media websites and the like from any liability for content posted by their users, although they can be held liable for content that violates anti-sex trafficking laws or posts that infringe on existing intellectual properties.
Attorney General William Barr, during Trump’s announcement of the executive order, said the 1996 Communications Decency Act was only meant to protect a “fledgling industry,” and that it has since been “stretched way beyond its original intention, and people feel that on both sides of the aisle.”
“We’re fed up with it. What I think we can say is that we’re going to regulate it,” Trump said just before signing the order, which he claimed would uphold freedom of speech.
Trump, before getting flagged, was an avid user of the platform, which he used to send out unfiltered messages and statements to the public and to his supporters.
Trump order prompts social media outcry
Twitter, responding to Trump’s order, said the president’s action is “a reactionary and politicized approach to a landmark law,” adding that any attempts to purposely weaken Section 230 would effectively “threaten the future of online speech.”
In a series of tweets, Twitter founder Jack Dorsey noted that the social media platform will continue to point out incorrect or disputed information, adding that doing so does not make their platform an “arbiter of truth,” a reference perhaps to Facebook founder and head Mark Zuckerberg’s statement that privately owned social media platforms must not act as arbiters of truth when it comes to the content that its users choose to upload or post.
“Our intention is to connect the dots of conflicting statements and show the information in dispute so people can judge for themselves,” Dorsey said.
Law expert Jack Balkin, who teaches constitutional law at Yale University, said in an interview with Al Jazeera that Trump is merely seeking to “frighten and coerce” social media companies to leave him alone and refrain from doing what Twitter did.
Online juggernaut Google, which owns YouTube and several other media sharing platforms, noted in a statement that changing Section 230 would likely hurt the American economy, as well as its position as a global leader on internet freedom.
Twitter refuses to back down, flags another Trump tweet for “glorifying violence”
Twitter, on Friday, once again flagged one of Trump’s tweets, noting that the president broke the platform’s rules by “glorifying violence.”
The tweet in question — which can now only be read after clicking on a notice stating that the tweet violated the site’s rules — contained a statement noting that “when the looting starts [in Minneapolis], the shooting starts.”
Trump posted the tweet days after Minneapolis residents launched protests in memory of George Floyd, a black man who was killed by a white police officer in what is considered to be another episode of American police brutality.
FactCheck.news has the latest on social media censorship and misinformation.