On Thursday, President Trump signed an executive order that would further regulate and call upon federal investigators to look into an existing FCC law that protects social media companies from liability of content posted on their sites.
The law often referred to as “Section 230” is apart of the Communication Decency Act which was initially passed in 1996. The order signed by the President would pave the way for the law to be reinterpreted from its original meaning, possibly allowing gov. agencies to rethink its implementation, as The Verge reports:
Under Section 230, internet companies have broad immunity from liability for the content created by their users. The draft order, announced on Wednesday, would open the door for the Commerce Department and the Federal Communications Commission to reinterpret the law, and authorize the Federal Trade Commission to craft a tool for reporting bias online.
When asked about the specifics and reasoning behind the order, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany told the press that the law protects social media companies and that removing it would uncover “what is happening” behind the scenes. When signing the order today, President Trump said Twitter is no longer a “neutral” site, and that it “suppresses, edits, blacklists, shadows, or bans” adding that Facebook, Google and others do the same.
The order also calls upon the federal government to review “unfair or deceptive practices” by Twitter and Facebook, 1 day after Twitter added a fact-check label to one of the President’s tweets. The act was Passed in 1996 by Senator’s Chris Cox (R-CA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) who weighed on Thursday about Trump’s decision, saying it is “painfully illegal”.
I have warned for years that this administration was threatening 230 in order to chill speech and bully companies like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter into giving him favorable treatment. Today Trump proved me right. I expect those companies, and every American who participates in online speech, to resist this illegal act by all possible means. Giving in to bullying by this president may be the single most unpatriotic act an American could undertake.
Donald Trump’s order is plainly illegal. After driving our country into an economic and health care disaster, Trump is desperately trying to steal for himself the power of the courts and Congress to rewrite decades of settled law around Section 230. All for the ability to spread unfiltered lies.
Donald Trump’s misinformation campaigns have left death and destruction in their wake. He’s clearly targeting Section 230 because it protects private businesses’ right not to have to play host to his lies. As the co-author of Section 230, let me make this clear – there is nothing in the law about political neutrality. It does not say companies like Twitter are forced to carry misinformation about voting, especially from the president. Efforts to erode Section 230 will only make online content more likely to be false and dangerous.
Protecting expression that resists the tyranny of those in power is the very foundation of the First Amendment. Section 230 does not prevent Internet companies from moderating offensive or false content. And it does not change the First Amendment of the Constitution.
President Trump has long believed that social media companies/websites are shadowing and silencing right-wing political commentary and opinions. The executive order today in the eyes of The White House would further enable freedom of speech within online platforms. On the other hand, Democratic and Republican lawmakers say that such an order would do the opposite.
Leading commissioners for the FCC, Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democrat, says “an Executive Order that would turn the Federal Communications Commission into the President’s speech police is not the answer.” Republican commissioner Brendan Carr says that it “makes sense” to allow public discussion and input before moving forward on any real action.
In practice, the new order could impact recently launched Twitter features that labels “misleading” tweets on the web, and its iOS/Android apps. President Trump says that these labels are biased and that the sources used to add these labels are “fake news.” Twitter and Facebook have been both under increasing pressure to add more fact-checking features into its apps in light of COVID19. Both companies have shared their commitment to ensuring that their respective platforms offer “accurate” and “trustworthy” information.