United States President Donald Trump has signed an executive order into law aimed at cracking down on online censorship by empowering federal regulators to attenuate broad authority commanded by tech giants to moderate speech.
Named “Executive Order on Preventing Online Censorship,” the order comes after Twitter flagged one and fact-checked two of Trump’s tweets on account of violating Twitter Rules for glorifying violence and disseminating false information about mail-in voting.
Following the series of Twitter spat, Donald Trump accused Twitter of interfering in the 2020 Presidential Elections scheduled to be held in November later this year. Trump’s tirade didn’t stop there and he vowed that the US government will either regulate or shut down social networking platforms for their role in muzzling conservative voices.
Here is What the Executive Order Does
The Executive Order on Preventing Online Censorship:
- Directs the Commerce Department to file a petition with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to craft new regulations limiting the scope of protections provided to tech companies under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. That measure, which hasn’t previously fallen to the FCC to interpret or enforce, immunizes online platforms against liability for the content their users post.
- Asks the Federal Trade Commission, which polices unfair or deceptive acts, to take action against platforms whose content moderation practices restrict speech in ways that don’t align with their publicly stated policies.
- Directs the attorney general to create a working group to help states enforce laws prohibiting online platforms from engaging in deceptive or unfair practices.
- Orders the attorney general to develop a proposal for federal legislation to promote the order’s policy goals.
What Legal Experts Say?
Some legal experts have termed the order as purely political and toothless in terms of enforcement. However, they have warned that it could lay the groundwork for future legislation.
Others have declared the executive order as a blatant and unconstitutional threat to punish social-media companies that do not toe the line of Donald Trump.
Ashkhen Kazaryan, Director at the TechFreedom think tank, has said that Executive Order on Preventing Online Censorship contradicts the First Amendment as it aims to weaponize the Federal Communications Commission and other arms of the federal government to monitor online speech.
Justin Brookman, director of consumer privacy and technology policy for Consumer Reports, has said that a fact check by Twitter is an editorial decision protected by the First Amendment. This executive order is a half-baked effort that will have few legal effects, but it could chill free expression online and threaten the open internet.
Megan Brown, an attorney who specializes in privacy and cybersecurity, has said that the First Amendment protects Twitter from Trump. It does not protect Trump from Twitter. Moves like this should come from Congress, not executive orders.