President Donald Trump lashed out at social media Thursday accusing it of anti-conservative bias which he called one of the greatest threats to free speech in American history – and said he wished he could close down Twitter.
He lambasted the platform as he signed an executive order in the Oval Office which is intended to begin tackling what he claims is censorship of conservative voices.
The order could open Twitter, Facebook and Google up to lawsuits by diluting the legal protection which stops them from being liable for posts on their platforms, and which also allows them to moderate content.
It came after Twitter slapped two of the President’s tweets with a ‘fact check’ on Tuesday and Trump hit back by saying he would regulate and even shut down the Silicon Valley giants if they are shown to be biased.
Executive action: Donald Trump signed an order which will attempt to dilute key legal protections for Twitter – and unloaded on the platform and social media
He accused Twitter of becoming an ‘editor with a point of view’ and not a ‘neutral platform’ by fact-checking him and then slammed one of its executives, Yoel Roth, its head of user integrity, accusing him of ‘fraud’ for the fact check. Twitter says he was not involved in it.
Asked if he wanted to get rid of Twitter he said: ‘If it was legal, if it was able to be legally shut down, I would.’
Trump signed the executive order on ‘fairness’ which could lead to Twitter, Facebook, Google and other social media and search platforms being stripped of a legal shield which makes them almost immune from being sued.
Trump rolled out the tough language as Attorney General Bill Barr looked on and the president signed an order that could expose Twitter and other social media platforms to a barrage of lawsuits. Barr said when firms ‘curate’ their collection and engage in ‘censoring’ content firms become ‘publishers’ and shouldn’t be entitled to a legal ‘shield.’
‘We’re here today to defend free speech from one of the greatest dangers it has faced in American history, frankly, and you know what’s going on as well as anybody. It’s not good,’ Trump said before inking the order, which came just days after Twitter for the first time provided what Trump’s staff calls a fact-check on his own tweets.
Pressed on whether he would in fact seek to use the courts to shut down Twitter, Trump responded: ‘I think this: if twitter were not honorable, if you’re going to have a guy like this be your judge and jury I think you shut it down as far as I’m concerned,’ in reference to Twitter’s ‘head of integrity,’ who has been revealed to have posted tweets highly critical of Trump and top Republicans.
Trump spoke at the White House with Attorney General Bill Barr looking over his shoulder
Trump, a billionaire who amassed a branding and real estate empire before running for president, added: ‘A small handful of powerful social media monopolies controls a vast portion of all public and private communication in the United States and we know what they are, we don’t have to name them, we’re going to give you a complete listing.’
He continued: ‘They’ve had unchecked power to censure, restrict, edit, shape, hide, alter virtually any form of communication between private citizens or large public audiences.’
Trump brought up the 2016 elections as he tore into Twitter – a fact lawyers might try to flag if companies try to claim in court the action is politically motivated.
‘We can’t allow that to happen especially when they go about doing what they’re doing,’ Trump said. ‘Because they’re doing things incorrectly. They have points of view. And if we go by that it’s actually amazing that there was a success in 2016, but we can’t let this continue to happen. It’s very, very unfair.’
‘What they’re doing is tantamount to monopoly you can say,’ Trump claimed. It’s tantamount to taking over the airwaves. 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.’
Trump also tried to use the power of federal purse strings as pressure, saying we ‘are not going in any social media company that repress[es] free speech.’
He said the government spends ‘billions of dollars on giving them money’ and called the firms ‘rich enough,’ although independent accounts put the total government ad spending far lower.
‘We’re going to be doing none of it or very little of it,’ Trump said.
Asked if he would consider simply deleting his Twitter account given his concerns, Trump said he would ‘do that in a heartbeat’ if we had a ‘fair press’ in the U.S.
The language of the order Trump signed specifically singled out Twitter for its decision to flag two of the president’s tweets. The platform provided additional information, although it did not take down the tweets.
‘Twitter now selectively decides to place a warning label on certain tweets in a manner that clearly reflects political bias,’ said the order. ‘As has been reported, Twitter seems never to have placed such a label on another politician’s tweet. As recently as last week, Representative Adam Schiff was continuing to mislead his followers by peddling the long-disproved Russian Collusion Hoax, and Twitter did not flag those tweets. Unsurprisingly, its officer in charge of so-called ‘Site Integrity’ has flaunted his political bias in his own tweets.’
Schiff is the Democratic chair of the House Intelligence Committee and a favorite Trump target.
Another section singled out four tech platforms. ‘Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube wield immense, if not unprecedented, power to shape the interpretation of public events; to censor, delete, or disappear information; and to control what people see or do not see,’ it said.
Still another describes a new government ‘working group’ that will, among other things, evaluate media organizations with evidence of ‘bias’ being used to review content. ‘
‘Complaints described in section 4(b) of this order will be shared with the working group, consistent with applicable law. The working group shall also collect publicly available information regarding the following: (iv) reliance on third-party entities, including contractors, organizations, and individuals, with indicia of bias to review content,’ it says.
At least one section that did not appear in a draft form publicly available put new authority under Barr.
A section on government expenditures on online ads states: ‘The Department of Justice shall review the viewpoint-based speech restrictions imposed by each online platform identified in the report described in subsection (b) of this section and assess whether any online platforms are problematic vehicles for government speech due to viewpoint discrimination, deception to consumers, or other bad practices.’
A section on the FCC considers a newly-added hedge. ‘The FTC shall consider developing a report’ on whether complaints alleging a violation of the law implicate its provisions. A draft said the agency would produce the report.
One section has the AG’s working group probe an area with a financial angle, whether the platforms’ policies act in ways ‘that limit the ability of users with particular viewpoints to earn money on the platform compared with other users similarly situated.’
A leaked draft of the document suggests that it will try to limit the crucial protection social media companies have from being sued under normal defamation and free speech laws, although it falls short of his threat to ‘close’ platforms.
Shares in Twitter, the target of Trump’s anger for the fact check, were down 3% by early afternoon, but those in Facebook rose slightly.
Its founder Mark Zuckerberg told CNBC he did not want to be an ‘arbiter of truth,’ and criticized Twitter’s Jack Dorsey for the factchecks. Google share were also up. It has not passed comment on the row.
The draft version of the order shows that Trump will order the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to clarify how to enforce regulations under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
That is the federal law largely exempting online platforms from legal liability for users’ posts.
READ DONALD TRUMP’S FULL EXECUTIVE ORDER ON ‘BIAS’ ON SOCIAL MEDIA
PREVENTING ONLINE CENSORSHIP
By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, it is hereby ordered as follows:
Section 1. Policy.
Free speech is the bedrock of American democracy. Our Founding Fathers protected this sacred right with the First Amendment to the Constitution. The freedom to express and debate ideas is the foundation for all of our rights as a free people.
In a country that has long cherished the freedom of expression, we cannot allow a limited number of online platforms to hand pick the speech that Americans may access and convey on the internet. This practice is fundamentally un-American and anti-democratic. When large, powerful social media companies censor opinions with which they disagree, they exercise a dangerous power. They cease functioning as passive bulletin boards, and ought to be viewed and treated as content creators.
The growth of online platforms in recent years raises important questions about applying the ideals of the First Amendment to modern communications technology. Today, many Americans follow the news, stay in touch with friends and family, and share their views on current events through social media and other online platforms. As a result, these platforms function in many ways as a 21st century equivalent of the public square.
Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube wield immense, if not unprecedented, power to shape the interpretation of public events; to censor, delete, or disappear information; and to control what people see or do not see.
As President, I have made clear my commitment to free and open debate on the internet. Such debate is just as important online as it is in our universities, our town halls, and our homes. It is essential to sustaining our democracy.
Online platforms are engaging in selective censorship that is harming our national discourse. Tens of thousands of Americans have reported, among other troubling behaviors, online platforms ‘flagging’ content as inappropriate, even though it does not violate any stated terms of service; making unannounced and unexplained changes to company policies that have the effect of disfavoring certain viewpoints; and deleting content and entire accounts with no warning, no rationale, and no recourse.
Twitter now selectively decides to place a warning label on certain tweets in a manner that clearly reflects political bias. As has been reported, Twitter seems never to have placed such a label on another politician’s tweet. As recently as last week, Representative Adam Schiff was continuing to mislead his followers by peddling the long-disproved Russian Collusion Hoax, and Twitter did not flag those tweets. Unsurprisingly, its officer in charge of so-called ‘Site Integrity’ has flaunted his political bias in his own tweets.
At the same time online platforms are invoking inconsistent, irrational, and groundless justifications to censor or otherwise restrict Americans’ speech here at home, several online platforms are profiting from and promoting the aggression and disinformation spread by foreign governments like China. One United States company, for example, created a search engine for the Chinese Communist Party that would have blacklisted searches for ‘human rights,’ hid data unfavorable to the Chinese Communist Party, and tracked users determined appropriate for surveillance. It also established research partnerships in China that provide direct benefits to the Chinese military. Other companies have accepted advertisements paid for by the Chinese government that spread false information about China’s mass imprisonment of religious minorities, thereby enabling these abuses of human rights. They have also amplified China’s propaganda abroad, including by allowing Chinese government officials to use their platforms to spread misinformation regarding the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, and to undermine pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
As a Nation, we must foster and protect diverse viewpoints in today’s digital communications environment where all Americans can and should have a voice. We must seek transparency and accountability from online platforms, and encourage standards and tools to protect and preserve the integrity and openness of American discourse and freedom of expression.
Sec. 2. Protections Against Online Censorship.
It is the policy of the United States to foster clear ground rules promoting free and open debate on the internet. Prominent among the ground rules governing that debate is the immunity from liability created by section 230(c) of the Communications Decency Act (section 230(c)). 47 U.S.C. 230(c). It is the policy of the United States that the scope of that immunity should be clarified: the immunity should not extend beyond its text and purpose to provide protection for those who purport to provide users a forum for free and open speech, but in reality use their power over a vital means of communication to engage in deceptive or pretextual actions stifling free and open debate by censoring certain viewpoints.
Section 230(c) was designed to address early court decisions holding that, if an online platform restricted access to some content posted by others, it would thereby become a ‘publisher’ of all the content posted on its site for purposes of torts such as defamation. As the title of section 230(c) makes clear, the provision provides limited liability ‘protection’ to a provider of an interactive computer service (such as an online platform) that engages in ”Good Samaritan’ blocking’ of harmful content. In particular, the Congress sought to provide protections for online platforms that attempted to protect minors from harmful content and intended to ensure that such providers would not be discouraged from taking down harmful material. The provision was also intended to further the express vision of the Congress that the internet is a ‘forum for a true diversity of political discourse.’ 47 U.S.C. 230(a)(3). The limited protections provided by the statute should be construed with these purposes in mind.
In particular, subparagraph (c)(2) expressly addresses protections from ‘civil liability’ and specifies that an interactive computer service provider may not be made liable ‘on account of’ its decision in ‘good faith’ to restrict access to content that it considers to be ‘obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing or otherwise objectionable.’ 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. When an interactive computer service provider removes or restricts access to content and its actions do not meet the criteria of subparagraph (c)(2)(A), it is engaged in editorial conduct. It is the policy of the United States that such a provider should properly lose the limited liability shield of subparagraph (c)(2)(A) and be exposed to liability like any traditional editor and publisher that is not an online provider.
To advance the policy described in subsection (a) of this section, all executive departments and agencies should ensure that their application of section 230(c) properly reflects the narrow purpose of the section and take all appropriate actions in this regard. In addition, within 60 days of the date of this order, the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary), in consultation with the Attorney General, and acting through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), shall file a petition for rulemaking with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requesting that the FCC expeditiously propose regulations to clarify:
- (i) the interaction between subparagraphs (c)(1) and (c)(2) of section 230, in particular to clarify and determine the circumstances under which a provider of an interactive computer service that restricts access to content in a manner not specifically protected by subparagraph (c)(2)(A) may also not be able to claim protection under subparagraph (c)(1), which merely states that a provider shall not be treated as a publisher or speaker for making third-party content available and does not address the provider’s responsibility for its own editorial decisions;
- (ii) the conditions under which an action restricting access to or availability of material is not ‘taken in good faith’ within the meaning of subparagraph (c)(2)(A) of section 230, particularly whether actions can be ‘taken in good faith’ if they are:
(A) deceptive, pretextual, or inconsistent with a provider’s terms of service; or
(B) taken after failing to provide adequate notice, reasoned explanation, or a meaningful opportunity to be heard; and
- (iii) any other proposed regulations that the NTIA concludes may be appropriate to advance the policy described in subsection (a) of this section.
Sec. 3. Protecting Federal Taxpayer Dollars from Financing Online Platforms That Restrict Free Speech.
(a) The head of each executive department and agency (agency) shall review its agency’s Federal spending on advertising and marketing paid to online platforms. Such review shall include the amount of money spent, the online platforms that receive Federal dollars, and the statutory authorities available to restrict their receipt of advertising dollars.
(b) Within 30 days of the date of this order, the head of each agency shall report its findings to the Director of the Office of Management and Budget.
(c) The Department of Justice shall review the viewpoint-based speech restrictions imposed by each online platform identified in the report described in subsection (b) of this section and assess whether any online platforms are problematic vehicles for government speech due to viewpoint discrimination, deception to consumers, or other bad practices.
Sec. 4. Federal Review of Unfair or Deceptive Acts or Practices.
(a) It is the policy of the United States that large online platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook, as the critical means of promoting the free flow of speech and ideas today, should not restrict protected speech. The Supreme Court has noted that social media sites, as the modern public square, ‘can provide perhaps the most powerful mechanisms available to a private citizen to make his or her voice heard.’ Packingham v. North Carolina, 137 S. Ct. 1730, 1737 (2017). Communication through these channels has become important for meaningful participation in American democracy, including to petition elected leaders. These sites are providing an important forum to the public for others to engage in free expression and debate. Cf. PruneYard Shopping Center v. Robins, 447 U.S. 74, 85-89 (1980).
(b) In May of 2019, the White House launched a Tech Bias Reporting tool to allow Americans to report incidents of online censorship. In just weeks, the White House received over 16,000 complaints of online platforms censoring or otherwise taking action against users based on their political viewpoints. The White House will submit such complaints received to the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
(c) The FTC shall consider taking action, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, to prohibit unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce, pursuant to section 45 of title 15, United States Code. Such unfair or deceptive acts or practice may include practices by entities covered by section 230 that restrict speech in ways that do not align with those entities’ public representations about those practices.
(d) For large online platforms that are vast arenas for public debate, including the social media platform Twitter, the FTC shall also, consistent with its legal authority, consider whether complaints allege violations of law that implicate the policies set forth in section 4(a) of this order. The FTC shall consider developing a report describing such complaints and making the report publicly available, consistent with applicable law.
Sec. 5. State Review of Unfair or Deceptive Acts or Practices and Anti-Discrimination Laws.
(a) The Attorney General shall establish a working group regarding the potential enforcement of State statutes that prohibit online platforms from engaging in unfair or deceptive acts or practices. The working group shall also develop model legislation for consideration by legislatures in States where existing statutes do not protect Americans from such unfair and deceptive acts and practices. The working group shall invite State Attorneys General for discussion and consultation, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law.
(b) Complaints described in section 4(b) of this order will be shared with the working group, consistent with applicable law. The working group shall also collect publicly available information regarding the following:
- (i) increased scrutiny of users based on the other users they choose to follow, or their interactions with other users;
- (ii) algorithms to suppress content or users based on indications of political alignment or viewpoint;
- (iii) differential policies allowing for otherwise impermissible behavior, when committed by accounts associated with the Chinese Communist Party or other anti-democratic associations or governments;
- (iv) reliance on third-party entities, including contractors, media
organizations, and individuals, with indicia of bias to review content; and
- (v) acts that limit the ability of users with particular viewpoints to earn money on the platform compared with other users similarly situated.
Sec. 6. Legislation.
The Attorney General shall develop a proposal for Federal legislation that would be useful to promote the policy objectives of this order.
Sec. 7. Definition.
For purposes of this order, the term ‘online platform’ means any website or application that allows users to create and share content or engage in social networking, or any general search engine.
Sec. 8. General Provisions.
(a) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:
- (i) the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof; or
- (ii) the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.
(b) This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.
(c) This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.
DONALD J. TRUMP
THE WHITE HOUSE,
May 28, 2020.
Draft order: This is a version of what the White House was expected to sign. Scroll down to read it in full
But the draft order says that the protection should not apply if companies are ‘engaged in editorial conduct’ – meaning making a judgment for themselves about how people’s points of view are presented.
That is what Trump accuses Twitter of doing by fact-checking him, and what conservatives claim happens to their posts which are promoted less than those with more liberal viewpoints.
Such a move could open up Twitter, Facebook and other platforms to an avalanche of lawsuits from people claiming their views have been unfairly censored.
It also requires the agency to look at whether social media platforms are using ‘deceptive’ policies to moderate content by not openly declaring how they decide how viewpoints are dealt with.
Trump is also expected to set up a mechanism allowing Americans to report alleged political censorship or bias by the social media giants which will be investigated by the Federal Trade Commission.
The White House tech bias reporting tool will collect complaints of online censorship and submit them to the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
The FTC will then be required to ‘consider taking action’, examine whether complaints violate the law, draw up a report describing such complaints and make the report publicly available.
Donald Trump warned Wednesday morning that his administration will begin regulating and shutting down social media sites, claiming tech giants try to ‘totally silence conservative voices’
The claim came after Twitter, one of his favorite mediums for communicating with the American people, labeled two of his tweets about mail-in ballots as ‘misleading’
President Donald Trump signs his name as he, Vice President Mike Pence, second lady Karen Pence and first lady Melania Trump tour the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Facility at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida
The White House launched a similar tool last year but it is now closed.
‘This executive order, likely unconstitutional, is also intended to distract the public’s attention away from the fact that there are now over 100,000 Covid-related deaths across the country and an economy that is sinking to Great Depression levels,’ said Kristen Clarke, the president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in a statement.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce also blasted the move.
‘We believe that free speech and the right to engage in commerce are foundational to the American free enterprise system,’ a Chamber official said in a statement, the New York Times reported. ‘Regardless of the circumstances that led up to this, this is not how public policy is made in the United States. An executive order cannot be properly used to change federal law.’
The draft order says it received 16,000 responses of alleged bias and suggests that they will form part of the Federal Trade Commission’s investigation.
Anti-conservative bias claims on social media
Facebook internal report admitted bias
Facebook last year opened itself to an independent investigation of anti-conservative bias after repeated criticism from Trump.
The audit, carried out by former Republican Senator Jon Kyl and others, found that the tech giant was still some way off eliminating its bias.
It concluded that Facebook’s efforts to counter fake news had silenced conservative voices. One example, was that fact-checking sites used by the social media giant were inherently left-leaning.
In addition, it found that Facebook’s ads policy could have restricted anti-abortion advocacy.
Kyl’s report said: ‘Facebook has recognized the importance of our assessment and has taken some steps to address the concerns we uncovered. But there is still significant work to be done to satisfy the concerns we heard from conservatives.’
Don Jr. claimed to be hit by ‘Shadow banning’
A series of high-profile pro-Trump figures have claimed that Twitter and Instagram have made it harder to find their accounts or individual posts.
Among those making the claim have been Donald Trump Jr., and Mark Meadows, at the time a congressman and now Trump’s White House chief of staff, and Jim Jordan, a prominent Trump defender.
Trump Jr. made the claim in his book, Triggered.
Twitter has denied that it was involved in such a practice but did update its algorithm when the controversy erupted in July 2016. Instagram – which is owned by Facebook – has said it does not alter the prominence of posts for political reasons.
James Woods is banned from Twitter
The conservative actor and prominent tweeter was locked out of his account in May 2019 for tweeting: ”If you try to kill the King, you best not miss’#HangThemAll.’
Candace Owens suspended by Twitter after criticizing lockdown
Conservative commentator Candace Owens tweeted earlier this month: ‘Apparently @GovWhitmer believes she is a duly elected dictator of a socialist country. The people of Michigan need to stand up to her. Open your businesses. Go to work. The police think she’s crazy too. They are not going to arrest 10,000,000 people for going to work.’
A Twitter spokesman confirmed that Owens’ tweet violated its Covid-19 fake news policy. Twitter said the tweet would be deleted and Owens would serve a ‘timeout’ before being allowed to log back on.
Google accused of censorship of views on abortion, gun rights, Islam and terrorism on its YouTube platform
In February, Google persuaded a federal appeals court on Wednesday to reject claims that YouTube illegally censored Prager University, a conservative nonprofit run by radio talk show host Dennis Prager.
PragerU claimed that YouTube’s opposition to its political views led it to tag dozens of videos on such topics as abortion, gun rights, Islam and terrorism for its ‘Restricted Mode’ setting, and block third parties from advertising on the videos.
Writing for the appeals court, however, Circuit Judge Margaret McKeown said YouTube was a private forum despite its ‘ubiquity’ and public accessibility, and hosting videos did not make it a ‘state actor’ for purposes of the First Amendment.
Clinton scourge Tulsi Gabbard sues Google over violating free speech
Last year she announced she was suing Google for $50million after it suspended her advertising account in the hours after a Democratic debate because it was trying to silence her.
Although she’s a Democrat, Gabbard’s nationalist ideals have put her at odds with the Democratic party.
Hillary Clinton suggested the Iraq War veteran was a Russian asset.
Tulsi Now Inc. said in the lawsuit filed in July 2019 that Google violated her right to free speech and didn’t provide ‘a straight answer’ for suspending her ads account.
Facebook, Apple, YouTube and Spotify ban Infowars’ Alex Jones
In 2018, Facebook, Apple, YouTube and Spotify banned pages and content from Infowars and the show’s host Alex Jones.
A Facebook spokesman referred to content which it said glorified violence and the use of dehumanizing language to describe Muslims and migrants. These violated their graphic violence and hate speech policies.
The spokesman noted conspiracy theories espoused by Jones on events like the 9/11 attacks and Sandy Hook school shooting, were not the reason for his ban.
YouTube followed suit a few hours later, as did Spotify, after Apple removed Jones from its podcast directory.
Laura Loomer banned from Twitter after she claimed Ilhan Omar was ‘anti Jewish’ and supported Shariah law
It comes as a federal appeals court this week upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit that accused Twitter, Facebook and other tech giants of conspiring to stifle the political views of far-right activist, Laura Loomer, and a conservative nonprofit, Freedom Watch.
In November 2018, Loomer handcuffed herself to the front doors of Twitter headquarters in New York after the company banned her. The company permanently suspended Loomer’s account, which had more than 260,000 followers, after she tweeted that Minnesota Democrat Ilhan Omar, one of the first two Muslim women to serve in Congress, is ‘anti Jewish’ and supports Sharia law.
Facebook also banned Loomer, who is running for a Florida congressional seat as a Republican.
In March 2019, U.S District Judge Trevor McFadden said their suit raises ‘non-trivial concerns’ but didn’t tie these concerns to viable legal claims.
The draft order also requires the attorney general to establish a working group including state attorneys general that will examine the enforcement of state laws that prohibit online platforms from engaging in unfair and deceptive acts.
And federal agencies are to be told to review their advertising on social media platforms, which was worth $1.5 billion in the last decade.
Section 230 of the 1996 law is a shield against social media networks being sued for what people post on their platforms.
It says: ‘No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.’
It also says that: ‘No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be held liable on account of any action voluntarily taken in good faith to restrict access to or availability of material that the provider or user considers to be obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected.’
A publisher or speaker can normally be sued for defamation for the contents of their speech but by not being categorized as those, any attempt to sue social media giants for what is written on them falls at the first hurdle.
The 1996 statute has allowed Silicon Valley to make billions of dollars from their users’ posts, photos and videos, with minimal legal liability, while giving them freedom to remove anything they see as ‘objectionable.’
When it was written social media did not exist.
Since its explosive growth, platforms including Twitter and Facebook have changed repeatedly.
Their algorithms decide the order in which users see new posts, and can be used to make particular content more or less visible.
That has led critics to say that they are behaving as publishers – deciding what people read or see – and not simply as forums.
The rest of the act gives forums powers to set standards for content, which social media platforms have used as a basis for moderating content and to justify the existence of algorithms.
Conservatives – and many others outside mainstream thought on matters like history, climate change and even the coronavirus – have criticized the use of Section 230 claiming big tech has censored content without being subject to scrutiny.
Republican senators Marco Rubio (FL) and Josh Hawley (MO) were among those who slammed Twitter for putting its fact-checking flag on the president’s tweets.
Rubio said: ‘The law still protects social media companies like @Twitter because they are considered forums not publishers.
‘But if they have now decided to exercise an editorial role like a publisher then they should no longer be shielded from liability & treated as publishers under the law.’
Hawley, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said it ‘raises serious questions about whether Twitter targeted the President for political reasons.’
There is however zero possibility of a Democratic House passing reforms to the law itself.
That leaves Trump trying to use the powers of the executive branch.
The draft order also puts a prohibition on federal tax dollars going to online platforms that ‘violate free speech principles.’
But a report last February showed the feds spent just $8 million on social media ads in 2018.
The idea of broadening the platforms’ legal exposure carried more weight.
Under the order, the Commerce Secretary would file a petition for new FCC rule-making. It would make platforms liable when actions are ‘deceptive, pretextrual, or inconsistent with a provider’s terms of service,’ or when taken with ‘inadequate notice’ or by an ‘unreasoned explanation.’
Trump himself has made ample use of lawsuits and legal threats over his career. USA found in 2016 Trump and his companies had been involved in 3,500 lawsuits over three decades.
Trump’s moves brought immediate pushback.
‘This is simply setting the wheels of law enforcement and regulation in motion against a private company for questioning the president,’ said Matt Schruers, president of the Computer and Communications Industry Association, according to the Washington Post.
Added former FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, ‘Social media can be frustrating. But an executive order that would turn the Federal Communications Commission into the president’s speech police is not the answer.’
Jesse Blumenthal, head of the Koch-backed Stand Together group, said it was ‘just nonsense’ to try to rewrite a clear statute through an executive order.
The draft rule’s first section contains language that is more political than technical, following reports the administration rushed to put it out.
It calls free speech ‘the bedrock of American democracy’ and says having a limited number of platforms ‘hand-pick’ speech is ‘fundamentally un-American and anti-democratic.’
Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro tweeted: ‘Here’s the inevitable effect … all comments sections will be taken down. No website has the resources to actively edit all comments in order to shield themselves from liability, and no website is willing to leave comments entirely standards-free.’
Pachter said that fact-checking ‘is a stupid idea on Twitter’s part’ and that instead they should just delete tweets which are reported, warn the offender or suspend them for breaking its rules.
Trump had claimed Wednesday in a Twitter thread that conservatives are being silenced and disproportionately regulated on social media websites like Twitter and Facebook as Twitter issued ‘misleading’ warning labels on two of his tweets about mail-in voting on Tuesday.
‘Republicans feel that Social Media Platforms totally silence conservatives voices. We will strongly regulate, or close them down, before we can ever allow this to happen,’ the president posted to his Twitter Wednesday morning. ‘We saw what they attempted to do, and failed, in 2016. We can’t let a more sophisticated version of that happen again.’
The warning was issued after Trump reacted with fury to having two of his tweets labelled as misleading, with links to news articles suggesting they were false attached.
Responding to the ‘fact checking’ Trump’s campaign manager Brad Parscale said: ‘We always knew that Silicon Valley would pull out all the stops to obstruct and interfere with President Trump getting his message through to voters.
‘Partnering with the biased fake news media ‘fact checkers’ is only a smoke screen Twitter is using to try to lend their obvious political tactics some false credibility. There are many reasons the Trump campaign pulled all our advertising from Twitter months ago, and their clear political bias is one of them.’
In contrast, Twitter’s Jack Dorsey refused to take down the president’s tweets where he touted a debunked conspiracy theory that MSNBC host Joe Scarborough was involved in the death of a staffer when he was a Republican U.S. congressman from Florida.
Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg meanwhile criticized his competitor and said it was not the place of private companies to interfere in what people say online.
Speaking to Fox News, Zuckerberg said: ‘We have a different policy than, I think, Twitter on this … I just believe strongly that Facebook shouldn’t be the arbiter of truth of everything that people say online.
‘Private companies probably shouldn’t be, especially these platform companies, shouldn’t be in the position of doing that.’
Twitter users, including some Republicans, did not react kindly to the president suggesting increased regulations on social media websites.
Michael Pachter, research analyst at investment firm Wedbush Securities, told Fox Business: ‘Twitter came up with a rule that applies to one person …
‘They’re not treating (Trump) the way they treat everybody else. They came up with a separate set of rules just for him, which is fact-checking, because they’re too afraid of his bullying to delete the tweet or suspend him.’
Prominent conservative Margot Cleveland, whose work has been featured in several right leaning news publications, weighed in claiming any private organization has the right to decide what speech can and cannot be featured on their platform.
‘Pro Tip: Saying Twitter is violating your constitutional right to free speech or your First Amendment rights is wacko b/c Twitter ain’t the government,’ Cleveland wrote Wednesday morning. ‘Saying Twitter is ‘stifling free speech’ isn’t. Powerful private organizations can & do stifle speech.’
Trump critic and Republican George Conway, who is married to White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway, reposted a message from the State Department spokeswoman that contradicted the president’s tweet.
The president has often attacked social media giants and the people who run them – even as Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has refused to give into pressures to take some of Trump’s tweets down. Pictured: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg (left) and Dorsey (right)
Twitter posted a blue exclamation mark alert underneath two of Trump’s tweets about potential for fraud with mail-in voting, prompting users to ‘get the facts about mail-in ballots’
Users who clicked on the blue exclamation marks are then redirected to a page explaining why the claim was unsubstantiated, including an assertion that Trump’s claim are ‘false’ and that there is ‘no evidence’ that vote-by-mail was linked to voter fraud
Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg goes after Twitter for its fact-checking of Trump
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg criticized competitor Twitter on Thursday after it ‘fact-checked’ tweets from Donald Trump.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey immediately fired back saying that the site would continue to call out ‘incorrect or disputed information’ about elections shared by users.
In his interview with Fox, Facebook’s Zuckerberg said that it was not the place of the company to act as an ‘arbiter of truth’.
‘We have a different policy than, I think, Twitter on this,’ he said.
‘I just believe strongly that Facebook shouldn’t be the arbiter of truth of everything that people say online,’ he added.
‘Private companies probably shouldn’t be, especially these platform companies, shouldn’t be in the position of doing that.’
Dorsey tweeted: ‘Fact check: there is someone ultimately accountable for our actions as a company, and that’s me. Please leave our employees out of this. We’ll continue to point out incorrect or disputed information about elections globally. And we will admit to and own any mistakes we make,’ he wrote.
‘Per our Civic Integrity policy, the tweets yesterday may mislead people into thinking they don’t need to register to get a ballot (only registered voters receive ballots),’ he added. ‘We’re updating the link on @RealDonaldTrump’s tweet to make this more clear.’
‘The State Department’s spokesperson, a couple of hours after the President of the United States suggested that the government may ‘strongly regulate’ social media platforms or ‘close them down,” Conway wrote as a lead up.
Morgan Ortagus tweeted from the official State Department spokesperson account: ‘Governments that restrict internet access deprive their citizens of the information they need to stay safe. #FreedomOfExpression both online and offline is vital, especially during COVID-19. @StateDept is proud to be an active member of the @FO_Coalition.’
Kellyanne Conway criticized Twitter for flagging the tweets, lashing out at Yoel Roth, Twitter’s head of site Integrity, during an interview with Fox & Friends Wednesday.
She even cited his Twitter handle on live television to make sure Republicans knew where to direct their complaints.
‘This guy is constantly attacking Trump voters, Trump, Mitch McConnell, you name it. He’s the head of integrity at Twitter,’ Conway lamented.
‘It’s horrible the way he looks at people who should otherwise have a free and clear platform on Twitter.’
Trump also re-asserted his flagged tweets’ theme in his Wednesday morning tweet: ‘Just like we can’t let large scale Mail-In Ballots take root in our Country.’
Trump views that mail-in ballots will increase the chances of voter fraud – and benefit Democrats in 2020.
‘It would be a free for all on cheating, forgery and the theft of Ballots,’ Trump insisted. ‘Whoever cheated the most would win. Likewise, Social Media. Clean up your act, NOW!!!!’
On Tuesday, the president tweeted that California’s mail-in balloting initiative would lead to substantial voter fraud in the November general election.
Trump accused on Tuesday night that Twitter is interfering in the 2020 presidential election by fact-
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BREAKING NEWS: Donald Trump says he would 'SHUT DOWN' Twitter if he could as he signs executive order against 'anti-conservative bias' on social media and claims it is 'a threat to freedom itself' – but won't delete his account have 7991 words, post on www.dailymail.co.uk at May 28, 2020. This is cached page on USA Breaking News. If you want remove this page, please contact us.