- Sai Charan
Will Trump’s Social Media Executive Order Work?
Amendment 1 of the US Constitution guaranteed the right to free speech and protection from censorship from government agencies. However, Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution does not bar private companies from censoring the data posted by users using their services. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act says that social media companies are not responsible for the content posted by users and thus protects social media companies from lawsuits.
On May 26, 2020, In a series of tweets, President Trump criticized the idea of mail-in ballots. He claimed that mail-in ballots will cause widespread voter fraud even though there is no evidence that mail in-ballots are linked to voter fraud. He also claimed that California will send mail-in ballots to anyone living in the state, no matter who they are or how they got there. However, The fact is that only registered voters will receive ballots. Five states already vote entirely by mail and all states offer some form of mail-in absentee voting.
Twitter fact-checked his tweets and added a warning label. After this incident, Trump remarked that he will remove the shield that protects social media companies from lawsuits. This means that he wants the scope of the protection offered by Section 230 to be reduced. He also stated that social media sites should not be immune to lawsuits when they edit posts such as by adding a warning or a label and that deceptive blocking including removing a post for reasons other than those described in the website’s terms of service should not be protected.
Later, Trump issued an executive order that directed the Federal Communications Commission to draft regulations clarifying when a company forfeits its Section 230 protection and also asked the commission to bring lawsuits against any firms that aren’t neutral. The executive order also sends complaints about platform neutrality to the Federal Trade Commission and asked them to start an investigation into social networks’ neutrality to ensure that they meet standards of neutrality.
The Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission are Independent Bodies. Therefore, They are not required to act as directed by the President. Amendment 1 of the U.S. Constitution could be used to challenge the constitutional validity of the regulations that the Federal Communications Commission might try to impose as the regulations could be regarded as censorship by the government.
I feel that it is in the best interest of the general public to fact check messages. I also believe that Twitter has not intervened in the election process by fact-checking messages that are false and informing the public of the factual inaccuracy. Voters must know the facts and should not be influenced by fake news and conspiracy theories that are propagated by politicians.