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President Donald Trump sent a strong message to social media companies as he signed an executive order that could limit their liability protections and federal funding.
The president took aim at Facebook, Google, YouTube and Twitter in the executive order he signed Thursday, calling for a review of the legal immunities which shield the companies from content posted on their sites as he noted the “unchecked power” of the online platforms.
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) May 28, 2020
“We’re here today to defend free speech from one of the greatest dangers it has faced in American history, frankly, and you know what’s going on as well as anybody. It’s not good,” Trump told reporters from the Oval Office before signing the order.
“A small handful of social media monopolies controls a vast portion of all public and private communications in the United States,” he said. “They’ve had unchecked power to censor, restrict, edit, shape, hide, alter, virtually any form of communication between private citizens and large public audiences.”
The order calls for the Federal Communications Commission to look at whether companies should lose protections if they appear to be editorializing content shared by users. Those protections, currently under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, give broad protections to the social media companies from content created and posted by users on their sites, something the president noted has been a complaint lodged by both Republicans and Democrats.
(Source: Fox News)
“My executive order calls for new regulations under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act to make it so that social media companies that engage in censoring any political conduct will not be able to keep their liability shield,” the president said.
“My executive order further instructs the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to prohibit social media companies from engaging in any deceptive acts or practices affecting commerce. This commerce resides in Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act,” he added. “Additionally, I’m directing the attorney general to work cooperatively with the states … to enforce their own laws against such deceptive business practices. The states have broad and powerful authority to regulate in this arena.”
Attorney General William Barr also attended the signing, saying that although the president’s order does not repeal Section 230, the current statute “has been stretched way beyond its original intention” and that the Justice Department would follow through on any legal matters.
The signing of the order was teased on Wednesday as White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters that the president would be signing an order “pertaining to social media” for suppressing free speech and showing a bias against conservative voices when users are suspended or their posts deleted.
McEnany delivered a scathing rebuke of the platforms on Thursday during a press briefing, rolling out a long list of hypocrisy and blatant bias against the president and conservatives.
The president had hinted at “big action” against Twitter on Wednesday after blasting the platform for adding a fact-check label to his tweets about mail-in voting.
….Twitter is completely stifling FREE SPEECH, and I, as President, will not allow it to happen!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 26, 2020
This will be a Big Day for Social Media and FAIRNESS!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 28, 2020
“Republicans feel that Social Media Platforms totally silence conservatives voices. We will strongly regulate, or close them down, before we can ever allow this to happen,” Trump tweeted Wednesday and called the fact-checking “egregious” during Thursday’s signing ceremony.
Senators Marco Rubio of Florida and Josh Hawley of Missouri called out Twitter after its fact-checking of the president and U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz accused the company of “editorializing.”
If you are going to opine as to the truth or falsity of that which is put on your platform for the sake of its viewers, you should not get the protections of Section 230.
You are not a platform, you are editorializing.#TwitterFactCheck
— Rep. Matt Gaetz (@RepMattGaetz) May 27, 2020
The Florida Republican had been working on legislation to revise Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
“The choices that Twitter makes when it chooses to suppress, edit, blacklist, shadowban are editorial decisions, pure and simple,” Trump said ahead of the signing. “In those moments Twitter ceases to be a neutral public platform and they become an editor with a viewpoint.”
Meanwhile, the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by conservative legal organization Freedom Watch and activist Laura Loomer was upheld by a federal court on Wednesday. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit agreed with the lower court’s rejection of claims that the social media companies coordinated to suppress conservative viewpoints on their platforms and violated the First Amendment.
Appeals court affirms dismissal of suit against Facebook, Twitter, Google and Apple that accused them of conspiring to suppress conservative political views pic.twitter.com/IsRu4mMdyU
— davidshepardson (@davidshepardson) May 27, 2020
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg took a shot at Twitter, telling Fox News’ Dana Perino that companies like his own should not act as the “arbiter of truth.”
“I just believe strongly that Facebook shouldn’t be the arbiter of truth of everything that people say online,” he told “The Daily Briefing” in a taped interview.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey fired back at criticism in a series of tweets on Wednesday, claiming: “Our intention is to connect the dots of conflicting statements and show the information in dispute so people can judge for themselves.”
Zuckerberg argues social media companies ‘shouldn’t be the arbiter of truth’, Twitter CEO sounds off https://t.co/1ffEJLa7Ds
— Conservative News (@BIZPACReview) May 28, 2020
Trump concluded his remarks from the Oval Office on Thursday, saying he was directing his administration “to develop policies and procedures to ensure taxpayer dollars are not going to any social media company that suppresses free speech.”
“They’re rich enough,” he said.
“What they’re doing is tantamount to monopoly, to taking over the airwaves,” the president added. “Can’t let it happen. Or else we’re not gonna have a democracy.”
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