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Donald Trump Plans Executive Order On Social Media After Twitter Places Fact Checks On Some Of His Tweets — Update

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UPDATE: President Donald Trump plans to sign an executive order “pertaining to social media” on Thursday, according to White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany.

It’s unclear what the order will entail, but it follows the president’s threats to “strongly regulate” or close down social media platforms after Twitter slapped a fact-check link on two of his tweets.

The president does not have the authority to shut down the platforms, and regulation would likely have to come from an act of Congress. But he reportedly has been considering forming a panel to review complaints of anti-conservative bias on tech platforms.

PREVIOUSLY, 5:59 AM PT: President Donald Trump threatened to “strongly regulate” or close down social media platforms after Twitter’s decision to placed a fact-check link to two of his tweets.

On Wednesday, he wrote, “Republicans feel that Social Media Platforms totally silence conservatives voices. We will strongly regulate, or close them down, before we can ever allow this to happen. We saw what they attempted to do, and failed, in 2016. We can’t let a more sophisticated version of that happen again. Just like we can’t let large scale Mail-In Ballots take root in our Country. It would be a free for all on cheating, forgery and the theft of Ballots. Whoever cheated the most would win. Likewise, Social Media. Clean up your act, NOW!!!!”

On Tuesday, when Trump claimed that California’s move to send mail-in ballots to all voters would lead to widespread fraud, Twitter put a link on one of his tweets for the first time. The link, “Get the facts about mail-in ballots,” directed users to news stories debunking claims of election cheating. They have yet to do the same on his latest tweets, even though they make the same claims about mail-in voting.

Twitter Slaps Fact-Check Link On Donald Trump Tweet For The First Time; He Claims Platform Is “Stifling Free Speech”

Trump has been on a tear about Twitter’s action, while other Republicans have demanded that Twitter slap fact-check labels on Democrats’ tweets.

Trump’s threat to regulate the platforms isn’t entirely new. His former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, advanced the idea of classifying such platforms as Facebook and Google like utilities. But Trump’s administration has actually deregulated another part of the internet ecosystem, as the Republican-controlled FCC has rolled back net neutrality rules on internet providers like AT&T and Comcast.

Shutting down the platforms would take an act of Congress or perhaps the FCC or FTC. It also would provoke a constitutional challenge. The First Amendment limits the government’s attempts to regulate speech, not that of private platforms which have their own terms of service for users.

Still, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other sites enjoy broad immunity from third-party content placed on their sites via Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, and that has been one avenue some Republicans have targeted as a way to fight what they see as bias against conservative voices. Last year, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) introduced a bill last year that would have amended the act to remove the liability protection unless the platforms could show via audit that their content removal practices were politically neutral.

Twitter Doesn’t Remove Donald Trump’s Conspiracy Tweets After Widower Of Joe Scarborough Aide Asked For Them To Be Deleted

The legislation did not garner any co-sponsors, but Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) suggested on Tuesday that platforms should no longer get a shield from liability if they are exercising editorial judgments like a publisher. The Section 230 protects the platforms from defamation lawsuits over third party content posted on their sites.

Meanwhile, some free speech advocates are sounding the alarm over Trump’s latest threat.

Suzanne Nossel, CEO of PEN America, said in a statement, “His call to punish Twitter for its fact-checking of his blatantly false statements is akin to threatening to shut down a newspaper or a TV network for a report considered unfriendly. Not only does he not have the authority to silence these platforms and users, the constitution expressly forbids using the power of government to exact reprisals against speech. He isn’t protecting free speech; he is chilling it.”

Jameel Jaffer, executive director at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, said that there was no First Amendment issue with Twitter putting a label on Trump’s tweets.

“In fact, there would be no First Amendment issue with Twitter banning the president from the platform altogether,” Jaffer said in a statement. “The First Amendment restricts only government actors; it doesn’t restrict Twitter or other social media platforms. The only First Amendment issue here arises from the president’s threat to punish Twitter in some way for fact-checking his statements.”

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