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

Related Articles

Senate Judiciary Advances Measure To Give Government Greater Control Over Online Content, Opens Risks For Online Security Through Patchwork Of State Laws

Jul 2, 2020

Washington — The Senate Judiciary Committee took a step toward approving legislation, S. 3398, the “Eliminating Abusive and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies” (EARNIT) Act, which would weaken the law companies rely upon to address objectionable activity online, commonly referred to as Section 230. In March, when the bill was introduced, the Computer & Communications…

DOJ Proposes Modifying Law Supporting Free Speech Online In Effort To Pressure Internet Companies On Content Moderation Policies

Jun 17, 2020

Washington — Today the Justice Department announced a proposal to alter the law that allows internet users to instantly communicate online. The law, known as Section 230, was envisioned to protect free speech online while giving digital services legal certainty to remove objectionable content without risk of liability. DOJ’s proposal, which would require Congressional approval,…

White House Expected To Issue Executive Order Targeting Online Speech

May 28, 2020

Washington – According to various news reports, President Trump is expected to issue an executive order seeking to roll back the liability protections that have allowed users to post content online.  Reports of an executive order come days after Twitter applied a fact-check notice adjacent to accusations from President Trump via Twitter about alleged voter…