Trump to order review of law protecting social media firms after Twitter spat: report

President Trump will reportedly sign an executive order on Thursday that mandates a review of a law that shields companies like Twitter, Google and Facebook from being held liable for the content appearing on their platforms after fact checks for the first time were added to two of his tweets. 

The executive order Trump is expected to sign would direct the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to propose and clarify regulations stipulated under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, according to a draft copy obtained by Reuters. Section 230 protects social media platforms from facing lawsuits over what users share, though there are exceptions when it comes to copyright violations and breaches of federal criminal law. 

The move is set to come as Trump rails against Silicon Valley over Twitter’s decision earlier this week to add a fact-check label to two of his tweets about mail-in voting. Trump, who has repeatedly accused the tech giants of political bias, has cast the decision as an attempt to “silence” conservatives and threatened to shut down social media sites altogether. 

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Wednesday that Trump would sign an executive order “pertaining to social media,” though she did not offer any specific details. 

An alteration to Section 230 could have wide-ranging consequences over how websites moderate comments and other posts shared on their platforms. 

The order reportedly requests that the FCC evaluate whether social media companies should lose the Section 230 protections they enjoy if they take actions related to editing content. It also would direct the FCC to review whether any social media company uses deceptive content moderation polices and if they violate their own terms of service. 

The final executive order could change before it is signed by Trump, Reuters noted. 

A draft of the order also reportedly includes a directive for the White House Office of Digital Strategy to recreate a tool that gives Americans the opportunity to report alleged instances of censorship online. The so-called White House Tech Bias Reporting Tool would receive those complaints and submit them to the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

The FTC would then be required to consider taking action and examine whether the complaints violated the law. The attorney general would also be directed to create a working group that assesses content moderation practices from social media companies.  

Twitter’s decision on Tuesday to fact-check the president’s tweets represented the first time the social media company has taken that step for one of its most prominent users. A Twitter spokesperson told The Hill that the decision was made because Trump’s tweets contained “potentially misleading information about voting processes and have been labeled to provide additional context around mail-in ballots.”

The company declined to comment on the executive order. 

Trump railed against the decision to add the fact checks, claiming that Twitter was “stifling FREE SPEECH” and later vowing to take “big action.” Republican lawmakers in the House and Senate announced on Wednesday that they were crafting legislation that would strip Twitter of Section 230 protections. 

“If @Twitter wants to editorialize & comment on users’ posts, it should be divested of its special status under federal law (Section 230) & forced to play by same rules as all other publishers,” Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), an outspoken critic of Big Tech, tweeted.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) said he was working on the legislation “so we don’t have election interference from companies like Twitter.”

Section 230 has become increasingly controversial in recent years, with some critics holding that it allows tech companies to avoid taking responsibility for harmful content that spreads on their platforms. A group of lawmakers in March introduced a bill that would hold tech companies liable for images and videos of child abuse posted to their sites. The legislation faced intense pushback from tech advocates and supporters of Section 230. 

Tags Donald Trump FCC FTC Josh Hawley Kayleigh McEnany Matt Gaetz Social media Trump tweets Twitter White House Office of Digital Strategy
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