Trump Signs Exec Order Targeting Twitter Post Fact-Checking Row

The new executive order does not offer legal immunity from the content posted on the social media platforms.

3 min read
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Just a few days back, Twitter added a “Get the facts” link to a tweet thread shared by US President Donald Trump. Trump reacted by saying it is “completely stifling free speech” and interfering in the 2020 US presidential election.

As a sign of retaliation, Donald Trump has signed an executive order that is aimed at removing some of the legal protections that social media giants have.

As per the order, the authorities have the right to take legal action against social media platforms on how they police their content.

Trump's actions seek to blunt Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act which generally protects internet companies from legal liability for user comments.

This order is expected to face legal challenges from both Twitter and Facebook.


How Does This Order Affect Social Media Platforms?

“We’re here today to defend free speech from one of the greatest dangers,” Trump said before signing the executive order.  

Under Section 230, social networks are not held responsible for the content their users post on the platform. However, these network giants have the responsibility to remove the content that is obscene or violent.

The order also states that legal immunity does not imply if the social media platforms edit the content posted by its users, and calls for legislation from Congress to "remove or change" section 230.

It also says that social media posts that have been removed or blocked for reasons other than what is mentioned in the platform’s privacy policy should not be offered immunity.

“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,” reads an excerpt from the order.   

The executive order, which runs into more than 2,300 words, is centered around a single issue: That the digital public square should not “restrict” free speech.

Trump also said that the executive order instructs the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to prohibit social media platforms that engage in any unfair trade practices and commerce.


‘Forums, Not Publishers’

As per a BBC report, Republican senator Marco Rubio also presented an argument against social media platforms. He said that these platforms take on the role of a “publisher” when they add a fact-check label to a user’s post.

He added that the “law still protects social media companies like Twitter because they are considered forums, not publishers.”

However, since the have decided to don an editorial role of publishers, then they should no longer be shielded from liability and accountability and should be treated as publishers under the law.


No Stranger to Controversies

Twitter and its CEO Jack Dorsey are no strangers to controversy. While Twitter is tagging Trump's tweets about mail-in ballots, it hasn't touched his tweets repeating a debunked conspiracy theory that a TV news anchor murdered an aide years ago.

On a trip to India in late 2018, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey posed for a picture that had a placard reading "Smash Brahminical patriarchy." "I'm very sorry for this", the company's legal officer said later.

Earlier this week, Dorsey wrote on Twitter, "We'll continue to point out incorrect or disputed information about elections globally."

Twitter has banned all political ads since last November. Twitter and Facebook have both geared up to combat misinformation around the November 2020 US elections and are taking action against misleading political messages, a move they have long resisted.

(With input from IANS)

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