President Trump has been making waves again this week. Following through on earlier threats, Trump signed an executive order which will alter the legal protection afforded to social media platforms. Trump has been highly critical of social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook which he claims have been actively censoring conservative political content online. The signing of the executive order comes in the wake of Twitter adding a fact-check link to two of the president’s tweets to which he responded, tweeting: “big action to follow”.
Trump Tackles Deceptive Content Blocking
The order signed by Trump this week concerns the Communications Decency Act which outlines the legal protection offered to certain online companies in specific scenarios. The act asserts that these companies (such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube) are not generally held accountable for the content posted by their users but are allowed to censor material which could be viewed as graphic or obscene. This “good-Samaritan blocking” is at the discretion of the social media platforms and the executive order signed by Trump this week asserts that in situations where posts have been blocked for reasons other than those stated in the Act, the companies should not be offered protection.
Trump’s executive order says that “deceptive” blocking of posts should not be allowed and calls for the Federal Communications Commission to clearly define the material which should be blocked and what would count as deceptive blocking and therefore be prohibited.
Zuckerberg & Dorsey Protest
While some of the companies named have not responded yet, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told Fox in an interview this week that he feels the move is not the “right reflex” for the government to exercise and raising further concerns about censorship. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has also responded, writing on Twitter to say: “Fact check: there is someone ultimately accountable for our actions as a company, and that’s me. Please leave our employees out of this. We’ll continue to point out incorrect or disputed information about elections globally. And we will admit to and own any mistakes we make.”
Trump Fears Over Re-Election
There is growing pressure within the Trump camp now in the run up to the Presidential elections due later this year. With the economy having suffered heavily as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, Trump is reportedly concerned about the impact this will have on his re-election chances. Trump has consistently called out social media on what he deems to be its unfair operations and this week threatened to “strongly regulate” platforms. However, such a move is unlikely to prove popular with younger and more liberal voters and could backfire on him. Political data group FiveThirtyEight shows that Trump’s approval ratings have fallen from highs of over 45% to 42.6% currently.
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