White House Issues Executive Order Aimed At Online Speech, Social Media Companies

BY Heather Greenfield
May 28, 2020

Washington – President Trump escalated his threat to free speech online today. From the Oval Office, Trump denounced social media, expressing his desire to shut Twitter down.  The President then explained why he relied on social media so heavily to directly reach a broad audience. Trump made these remarks as he signed an executive order threatening crucial liability protections for online intermediaries that have enabled users to post content online.

Today’s order directs various government agencies to review the law that has enabled free speech online to thrive, while also empowering companies to take down misinformation, spurious public health claims, and violent extremist content, among other types of online abuse. The order asks the Federal Communications Commission and Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether they can impose any new regulations on internet companies to give the government greater oversight over private companies’ policies on what type of speech and content users can post.

The President also stated that he had asked Attorney General Barr to pressure Congress to alter the law that currently protects online services from liability for the misconduct of other internet users, known as Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

The Computer & Communications Industry Association has advocated against government censorship of the internet for more than 20 years. The following can be attributed to CCIA President Matt Schruers:

“Claims of systemic bias by social media companies are a fiction intended to pressure companies into making content moderation decisions more favorable to the Administration.  Setting regulators upon the private sector to achieve that end is a grave misuse of government resources in a time of national crisis.” 

“In light of threats including the ongoing pandemic, policymakers have asked digital services to do more to address misinformation online and companies have responded, as Twitter did with one of the President’s tweets this week. Companies rely upon Section 230 to take these steps.  Today’s effort to unilaterally reinterpret that law by Executive Order undermines efforts to remove misinformation during a public health crisis, and is not only unlawful, but irresponsible.”

For media inquiries, please contact Heather Greenfield hgreenfield@ccianet.org

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