Technology

First lawsuit filed against Trump's social media order

A technology policy organization filed the first lawsuit against President Trump's executive order targeting social media companies on Tuesday.

The case filed by the Center for Democracy and Technology alleges that the directive violates the First Amendment by curtailing protected speech by platforms and individuals.

The executive order, signed by Trump last week after his feud with Twitter over fact checking some posts, seeks among other things to unwind Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which gives social media companies immunity for content posted on their platforms by third parties and allows them to make "good faith" efforts to moderate content.

The lawsuit - filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia - asks the court to invalidate the executive order, claiming that even though it has not fully taken effect yet it could still chill speech.

"The Executive Order is designed to deter social media services from fighting misinformation, voter suppression, and the stoking of violence on their platforms," CDT president and CEO Alexandra Givens said in a statement.

"CDT filed suit today because the President's actions are a direct attack on the freedom of speech protected by the First Amendment," she added.

The suit is expected to be the first of many against the order which experts say is on shaky legal ground to begin with.

The order, among other things, directs an agency within the Commerce Department to file a petition with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to clarify the scope of Section 230.

The order implies that a new rule could make social media platforms more liable for claims based on third-party content as well as their efforts to moderate their platforms.

The FCC could refuse the request, and even if it did take it up it remains unclear if the agency has the legal authority to change the law passed by Congress in 1996.

The order has received strong backlash from Democratic lawmakers and industries alike.

Facebook, Google and Twitter have all supported the CDT in the past.

Twitter praised the lawsuit in a post Tuesday night, calling the order "a reactionary and politicized approach to a landmark law."

A spokesperson for Facebook, which said when the executive order was signed that changing Section 230 would restrict free speech, declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit.

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