Trump signs executive order to weaken social media companies

29 May, 2020 08:49
source: Singularity Financial

Singularity Financial Hong Kong May 29, 2020 – by David Lee

President Trump signed an executive order Thursday aimed at limiting the broad legal protections enjoyed by social media companies, two days after he tore into Twitter for fact-checking two of his tweets.

“We’re here today to defend free speech from one of the gravest dangers it has faced in American history, frankly,” Trump said from the Oval Office. “A small handful of powerful social media monopolies control the vast portion of all private and public communications in the United States.”

The president said the tech companies have “unchecked power to censor, restrict, edit, shape, hide, alter” a large sphere of human interaction. “They have points of view,” he said.

The Trump administration hopes the order will eventually set the stage for new regulations on tech platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.

But legal experts said they were doubtful the move would have any practical effect on the tech giants. Legal observers described the action as “political theater,” arguing that the order does not change existing federal law and will have no bearing on federal courts.

Twitter has flagged some of Trump’s tweets with a fact-check warning

The president’s latest confrontation with Twitter was set off after the tech company placed fact-checking warnings on two of his tweets that claimed, without evidence, that casting ballots by mail allows for voter fraud. Both Democratic and Republican states have used voting by mail for years without reports of widespread fraud.

Trump lashed out at Twitter, comparing the fact-checking labels to censorship and accusing the social media giant of stifling conservative voices, though the president did not provide any examples to back up his assertion.

The president, who often uses Twitter as a megaphone to tout his victories and blast his critics to his more than 80 million followers, said Thursday that if he had the legal authority to do so, he would completely shut down Twitter.

“I think I’d be hurting it very badly if we didn’t use it anymore,” Trump said from the White House. “We have other sites we can use, I guess, or we’d have to develop other sites.”

Facebook Mark Zuckerberg: social media should not fact check posts

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said Wednesday that the platform will continue to warn users about factual distortions on it.

“This does not make us an ‘arbiter of truth,’ ” Dorsey wrote on Twitter. “Our intention is to connect the dots of conflicting statements and show the information in dispute so people can judge for themselves. More transparency from us is critical so folks can clearly see the why behind our actions.”

Dorsey’s comment was an apparent response to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who told Fox News earlier Wednesday that social media companies should stay out of the business of weighing in on what is true or not. “Private companies probably shouldn’t be, especially these platform companies, shouldn’t be in the position of doing that,” Zuckerberg said.

A Facebook spokesperson added that ending the liability shield for social media companies would make sites responsible for what billions of users around the world say.

“This would penalize companies that choose to allow controversial speech and encourage platforms to censor anything that may offend anyone,” spokesperson Andy Stone said Thursday.