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Amid Twitter Feud, Trump Seeks to Strip Social Media Platforms of Legal Immunity

This latest escalation in the war of the words is stark, so say the least.

President Trump’s feud with Twitter has been ongoing for years, but the scuffle took a number of significant turns this week.

First, there was Twitter’s move to make fact-checking a reality on the platform, which has likely been a long time coming.  The social media app was already putting in an inordinate amount of effort to stifle certain harmful users, such as terror organizations and other organizers of violence.

But their employment of “fact checkers” is a startling new development, especially given just how wildly varied the multitude of “fact checking” organizations are.

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And, as if their was any doubt about their true intentions here, one of the first items to be labeled as potentially false was a tweet by the Commander in Chief.

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Trump didn’t take kindly to this, and is now working up an executive order aimed directly at the world of social media.

A draft of an executive order that President Donald Trump may sign as soon as Thursday could dramatically expand the government’s ability to punish social media platforms, marking the Trump administration’s most aggressive salvo yet in its battle against alleged anti-conservative bias on platforms including Twitter and Facebook.

A draft of the expansive executive order, circulated to stakeholders and obtained by Protocol late Wednesday night, would pull multiple levers of governmental power — including federal agencies, the U.S. attorney general and the White House — in order to blast the tech giants over allegations that their platforms censor conservative voices. The executive order comes on the heels of a bitter, days-long fight over Twitter’s decision to fact-check one of Trump’s recent tweets — and five months before the presidential election, signaling that Trump believes it could be a galvanizing issue for his base amid a pandemic that has killed more than 100,000 people in the U.S.

The language of the order was stark:

“In a country that has long cherished the freedom of expression, we cannot allow a limited number of online platforms to hand-pick the speech that Americans may access and convey online,” the draft reads. “When large, powerful social media companies censor opinions with which they disagree, they exercise a dangerous power.”

As written, one section of the order would require the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, a small agency within the Department of Commerce, to file a petition asking the FCC to review Section 230, tech’s prized liability shield. The section heavily implies that online platforms could be considered publishers of content under certain circumstances — and therefore could be held directly responsible for the content they host, a nightmare for any social media platform fearing a slew of lawsuits over every moderation decision.

Another section would forward complaints of anti-conservative bias filed with the White House over to the FTC, where they could be reviewed as examples of “unfair or deceptive business practices” — technically one of the FTC’s central mandates.

The draft order would also ask the U.S. attorney general to establish a working group “regarding the potential enforcement of State statutes that prohibit online platforms from engaging in unfair and deceptive acts and practices.” It would invite the country’s state attorneys general — nearly all of whom are already involved in antitrust lawsuits against Facebook, Google or both — to participate in the consultation.

Ladies and genlemen…the war of the words has begun.

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