Opinion

Trump Launches Attack on Social Media

Brian Lipscomb
May 29, 2020 04:38 PM ET

Yesterday, President Trump signed an executive order titled “Executive Order on Preventing Online Censorship“. This order is directed primarily at platforms like Twitter and Facebook. In my opinion, this order is a direct attack on media platforms that do not allow him to post whatever he likes.

How we got here

The President’s order is in direct response to two tweets he made concerning mail-in ballots and voter fraud. One of the tweets said, “There is NO WAY (ZERO!) that Mail-In Ballots will be anything less than substantially fraudulent. Mail boxes will be robbed, ballots will be forged & even illegally printed out & fraudulently signed.”…

Twitter added a link below the tweet saying, “Get the facts about mail-in ballots”. That link leads to this page.

What this all means

While the President cannot directly shut down a company like Twitter, he can take steps to try to harm them, and that is what his executive order attempts to do, In particular, look at this text:

Sec. 2.  Protections Against Online Censorship.  (a)  It is the policy of the United States to foster clear ground rules promoting free and open debate on the internet.  Prominent among the ground rules governing that debate is the immunity from liability created by section 230(c) of the Communications Decency Act (section 230(c)).  47 U.S.C. 230(c).  It is the policy of the United States that the scope of that immunity should be clarified: the immunity should not extend beyond its text and purpose to provide protection for those who purport to provide users a forum for free and open speech, but in reality use their power over a vital means of communication to engage in deceptive or pretextual actions stifling free and open debate by censoring certain viewpoints.

https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/executive-order-preventing-online-censorship/

Section 230(c) of the Communications Decency Act provides protection to online platforms from those who post there. In other words, Twitter cannot be held liable for someone posting a lie or a rumor, including President Trump. But that’s not what’s happening here. What Twitter did was to simply link to a dissenting point of view of what the President tweeted, because that tweet was misleading at best, and according to most experts, completely false.

Trump is never wrong, according to Trump, so what Twitter did is in his eyes is censorship, simple and plain.

“Free and open debate” does not include outright lies. This executive order is a scare tactic designed to get what he wants from Twitter: the ability to say whatever he (and his followers) wants, regardless of whether it’s true or a lie. It is based on the false assumption that media companies are biased against conservative voices. It’s a bully pulpit of the highest order.

References:

https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/executive-order-preventing-online-censorship/

https://www.axios.com/trump-executive-order-social-media-protections-8a53f1c6-3c05-4844-98a3-071373b497a8.html