Posted on May 28, 2020

Trump Set to Order Review of Law That Protects Social Media Companies

Nandita Bose and David Shepardson, Reuters, May 28, 2020

U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to order a review of a law that has long protected internet companies, including Twitter and Facebook, an extraordinary attempt to intervene in the media that experts said was unlikely to survive legal scrutiny.

The executive order was proposed after Trump attacked Twitter for tagging his tweets about unsubstantiated claims of fraud in mail-in voting with a warning prompting readers to fact-check the posts.

The draft order seen by Reuters directs federal agencies to modify the way a law known as Section 230, which protects internet companies from liability for content posted by their users, is implemented. It also orders a review of alleged “unfair or deceptive practices” by Facebook and Twitter, and calls on the government to reconsider advertising on services judged to “violate free speech principles.”

Officials said on Wednesday that Trump would sign the order on Thursday. White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters at a press briefing that the executive order could be released later this afternoon.

She said Section 230 is one of the shields that protects social media companies. “We’re looking at ways to remove those shields to shed some light on what is happening (with) some of the decision-making behind the scenes.”

Facebook and Twitter declined comment on the executive order.

The draft order, as written, attempts to circumvent Congress and the courts in directing changes to long-established interpretations of Section 230. {snip}


{snip} Twitter’s shares were down 2.2% on Thursday. Facebook and Google parent Alphabet Inc were up slightly.

Trump, who uses Twitter heavily to promote his policies and insult his opponents, has long claimed without evidence that the service is biased in favor of Democrats. He and his supporters have leveled the same unsubstantiated charges against Facebook, which Trump’s presidential campaign uses heavily as an advertising vehicle.

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called Trump’s planned order “outrageous” and a “distraction” from the coronavirus crisis.

The protections of Section 230 have often been under fire for different reasons from lawmakers including Big Tech critic Senator Josh Hawley. Critics argue that they give internet companies a free pass on things like hate speech and content that supports terror organizations.