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Trump May Have the Power to Limit Social Media

Zach Rathner Zach Rathner
1st June 2020
Trump May Have the Power to Limit Social Media
President Trump recently signed an executive order (Getty Images)

The Claim

Right-wing conservatives are being censored by social media outlets.

Emerging story

Twitter has recently flagged tweets made by President Trump (below) and labeled them for either inciting violence or stating untrue claims. Despite the President’s recent signing of an executive order, which aims to limit the power of social media platforms, legal experts do not think it is legally enforceable.

Misbar’s Analysis

President Trump recently signed an executive order aiming to change a federal law that allows social media platforms to be exempt from lawsuits or being held liable for posts made by their users.

Currently, accountability of this nature is protected by Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act. However, the recently signed order has asked the Federal Communications Commision to rethink when those protections are applicable.

President Trump’s order accuses social media platforms of “invoking inconsistent, irrational, and groundless justifications to censor or otherwise punish Americans’ speech here at home.”

Shortly before signing the document, President Trump exclaimed, “We’re here today to defend free speech from one of the greatest dangers.”

While the executive order allows Trump certain privileges, such as directing Attorney General William Barr to study claims of political bias and to work with state attorneys general on social media restrictions, legal experts say that the order violates free speech protections offered by the First Amendment.

Despite Trump’s claims of social media bias, CrowdTangle, a data-analytics firm owned by Facebook, says that content from conservative news outlets outperforms content from other news organizations.

While it remains to be seen as to exactly what Trump can do to limit social media’s liability protections, we rate the claim about right-wing conservatives being censored by social media outlets as “Mostly false.”

In summary, while Trump’s executive order regarding protections for social media companies has officially been signed, it is unclear what sort of restrictions he can place on those platforms as they are protected by the First Amendment. Evidence provided by CrowdTangle shows that more user interactions are made with conservative media outlets on Facebook than other more traditional media outlets.

Misbar’s Classification


Misbar’s Sources

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