Daily US Times: President Donald Trump has signed an executive order aimed at removing some of the legal protections given to social media platforms amid his ongoing clash with Twitter.
The order came after Twitter decided to use fact-check label on Mr Trump’s misleading or false tweet.
The executive order gives regulators the power to pursue legal actions against firms such as Facebook and Twitter for the way they police content on their platforms.
The President accused social media platforms of having “unchecked power” while signing the order.
However, advocates for the tech sector, lawmakers in Congress, and a variety of legal specialists from throughout the political spectrum Thursday doubted the legality of Trump’s draft proposal and feared its implications for free speech. The order is now expected to face legal challenges.
Legal experts argue that the US Congress or the court system must be involved to change the current legal understanding of protections for these platforms.
Under its new policy on misleading information, Twitter put a warning label under the post and a subsequent tweet.
Mr Trump responded by tweeting again, saying the social media giant “is completely stifling free speech”.
A notification from Twiter displays a blue exclamation mark underneath the tweets, suggesting readers “get the facts about mail-in ballots”.
Mr Trump claimed that the company was stifling free speech and that he wouldn’t allow it. But as a private company, Twitter gets to set its own rules for what happens on its platform.
What does the executive order say?
The order sets out to clarify the Communications Decency Act, a US law that offers online platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube legal protection in certain situations.
Social networks are not generally held responsible for content posted by their users under Section 230 of the law but can engage in “good-Samaritan blocking”, such as removing content that is violent, harassing or obscene.
The executive order points out that this legal immunity does not apply if a social network edits content posted by its users, and calls for legislation from Congress to “remove or change” section 230.
President Trump said Attorney General William Barr will “immediately” begin crafting a law for Congress to later vote on.
It also says “deceptive” blocking of posts, including removing a post for reasons other than those described in a website’s terms of service, should not be offered immunity.
Marco Rubio, a Republican senator, is among those arguing that the platforms take on the role of a “publisher” when they add fact-check labels to specific posts.
He 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 and treated as publishers under the law.”
How have the social networks responded?
Twitter already responded the order as “a reactionary and politicized approach to a landmark law”. The social media giant also added that that Section 230 “protects American innovation and freedom of expression, and it’s underpinned by democratic values”.
YouTube’s owner company Google said that changing Section 230 would “hurt America’s economy and its global leadership on internet freedom.”
Google’s statement says: “We have clear content policies and we enforce them without regard to political viewpoint. Our platforms have empowered a wide range of people and organizations from across the political spectrum, giving them a voice and new ways to reach their audiences.”
Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, said on Wednesday that censoring a social media platform would not be the “right reflex” for a government concerned about censorship.
“I just believe strongly that Facebook shouldn’t be the arbiter of truth of everything that people say online,” said Mr Zuckerberg said while speaking with Fox News.
“I think in general private companies probably shouldn’t be – especially these platform companies – shouldn’t be in the position of doing that.”
Conservative think tank Cato Institute warned the executive order could have unintended consequences.
Matthew Feeney of the Cato Institute said: “In the long run, this conservative campaign against social media companies could have a devastating effect on the freedom of speech.”
Changing the Communications Decency Act to “impose political neutrality on social media companies” could see the platforms filled with “legal content they’d otherwise like to remove” such as pornography, violent imagery and racism.
He said: “Or they would screen content to a degree that would kill the free flow of information on social media that we’re used to today.”
Dispute between social media companies and Mr Trump are not new but it again flared up again on Tuesday, when two of his posts were given a fact-check label by Twitter for the first time.