Just two days after Twitter slapped labels on two of the president’s tweets warning of the dangers of mail-in ballots, President Trump signed an executive order limiting the legal protections for social media companies that suppress, blacklist, censor, or otherwise manipulate information and content posted on the platform by users.
The online censorship executive order signed on Thursday (which can be viewed here) reads in part:
“It is the policy of the United States to ensure that, to the maximum extent permissible under the law, this provision is not distorted to provide liability protection for online platforms that — far from acting in ‘good faith’ to remove objectionable content — instead engage in deceptive or pretextual actions (often contrary to their stated terms of service) to stifle viewpoints with which they disagree. Section 230 was not intended to allow a handful of companies to grow into titans controlling vital avenues for our national discourse under the guise of promoting open forums for debate, and then to provide those behemoths blanket immunity when they use their power to censor content and silence viewpoints that they dislike.”
In a press conference on Thursday, President Trump laid out the bare bones of the executive order:
“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. My executive order calls for new regulations under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act to make it so social media companies that engage in censoring or any political conduct will not be able to keep their liability shield. That’s a big deal. They have a shield, they can do what they want-they have a shield- they’re not going to have that shield,” President Trump said.
“My executive order further instructs the Federal Trade Commission, (FTC) to prohibit social media companies from engaging in any deceptive acts or practices effecting commerce. This authority resides in Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act. I think you know it pretty well. Most of you know it very well. I would think that you know it quite well, right?”
“Additionally I’m directing the Attorney General to work cooperatively with the states. He’s going to be working very much and very closely in cooperation 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 and they’ll be doing it also and we encourage them to do it if they see exactly as we’ve been seeing. What they’re doing is tantamount to monopoly you can say. It’s tantamount to taking over the airwaves. We can’t let it happen, otherwise we’re not going to have a democracy. We’re not going to have anything to do with a republic. Finally, I’m directing my administration to ensure taxpayer dollars are not going into any social media companies that suppress free speech,” President Trump said.
Deputy Assistant to the President & Principal Deputy Press Secretary, Hogan Gidley tweeted, “Asked by a reporter if signing this online censorship Executive Order meant the President would consider getting rid of his @Twitter account, @realDonaldTrump responded: “If you weren’t fake, I’d do it in a heartbeat.”
“I believe it is time to ‘give the facts’ about Twitter and other social media platforms targeting their bias against President Trump and conservatives online,” Press Secretary Kayleigh McEaney during today’s press conference. “If we were to judge the bias of Twitter and its top employees by their own words, the case would be an easy one to make.”
“Twitter’s head of site integrity has tweeted that there are ‘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,” McEaney continued. “But let’s judge Twitter based on their actions, not based on the words of its top employees, and its actions are no better. President Trump recently received a so-called ‘fact check’ label for a tweet. It was a false fact check, an inaccurate fact check, but nevertheless, Twitter moved forward with it.”
“Dan Scavino, the deputy chief of staff here, was the first user in the history of Twitter to receive a so-called ‘manipulated media label’ for posting a video that played a verbatim clip,” McEnany said. “It is no coincidence that these two unbelievable interventions by Twitter were targeted against the president of the United States and one of the president’s top advisors. This is bias in action.”
McEnany also called out Twitter for not fact-checking disinformation on China’s mass imprisonment of religious minorities and allowing Twitter to continue the Chinese propaganda on COVID-19 on the platform.
“While Big Tech is quick to censor the president, quick to censor some of his top employees, they are very reluctant, it seems, to label some of the actions by Chinese officials, some of the misinformation that has been spread by China,” she said. “For example, to move off of Twitter and move to Google, they created a search engine for the Chinese Communist Party which blacklisted searches for human rights and allowed for easy surveillance. Facebook and Twitter have both taken paid advertising that spread disinformation about China’s mass imprisonment of religious minorities, and Twitter has allowed Chinese officials to use its platform to spread misinformation about the coronavirus, undermine the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, and more.”
Brad Parscale, campaign manager for the Trump campaign released the following statement on today’s signing of the social media executive order:
“Social media has been allowed to operate unchecked for years while enjoying the protection of federal law. These Silicon Valley giants have set themselves up as the arbiters of truth, censoring or labeling posts they disagree with, but they have shown that they cannot be trusted to be honest and fair. We have known for a long time that social media companies have it in for conservatives in general and President Trump specifically. There are various reasons we pulled our massive advertising spending from Twitter months ago, and their obvious political bias is one of them. In the most recent egregious act, Twitter targeted a Trump tweet, but still leaves alone posts from Joe Biden which are obvious lies, and outrageous propaganda claims from accounts linked to the Communist Chinese government. Since social media companies have not appropriately self-regulated to stop the bias on their own, President Trump has stepped in to make sure Silicon Valley is held accountable for trying to manipulate the American people. Good for him and good for America.”
Twitter user thebradfordfile (@hebradfordfile) summed it up in his tweet by saying, “President Trump didn’t just sign an executive order today–he put free speech on the ballot in 2020. I’m with Trump.”