Trump drops hammer on social media companies’ alleged bias by targeting crucial protection

President also suggested he was open to shutting down Twitter

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President Trump signed an executive order Thursday giving the government broader authority to crack down on social media companies while hinting he may be open to shutting down Twitter.

Trump accused social media companies of having “unchecked power,” acting as editors and publishers of the content on their websites. He said the order would remove their “liability shield” if they engage in censorship.

“They’re doing things incorrectly, they have points of view,” Trump said at the White House. “My executive order calls for new regulations under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act to make it that social media companies that engage in censoring or any political conduct will not be able to keep their liability shield. That’s a big deal.”

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) of 1996 protects companies like YouTube and Twitter from most content posted on their sites by third-party users even though the companies themselves generally oversee that content.

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Trump said the order would also, in addition to limiting these protections for companies that acted with bias, prevent taxpayer dollars from being allocated to any company that engages in what Trump referred to as “deceptiveness.”

Further, Trump said if Twitter was not “honorable,” he would shut it down if he could.

Twitter responded in a post on Thursday, calling the executive order "reactionary and politicized."

A spokesperson for Google, which owns YouTube, said in a statement that it has clear content policies that are enforced without regard to political viewpoint.

“Our platforms have empowered a wide range of people and organizations from across the political spectrum, giving them a voice and new ways to reach their audiences. Undermining Section 230 in this way would hurt America’s economy and its global leadership on internet freedom,” the spokesperson said.

A spokesperson for Facebook said repealing Section 230 would restrict more speech online.

"By exposing companies to potential liability for everything that billions of people around the world say, this would penalize companies that choose to allow controversial speech and encourage platforms to censor anything that might offend anyone,” the spokesperson said.

TickerSecurityLastChangeChange %
FBFACEBOOK INC.259.89+3.76+1.47%
GOOGLALPHABET INC.1,507.24+26.70+1.80%
TWTRTWITTER INC.37.44+0.16+0.43%

The order is expected to be met with a legal challenge, which the president acknowledged.

Republicans have alleged that social media companies have violated Section 230 by suppressing conservative views – but Democrats have also raised concerns that it too broadly protects companies from offensive content that is posted, like child pornography.

The announcement comes during the same week that Twitter unveiled fact-checking features alongside two of Trump’s tweets regarding mail-in ballots and fraud. He railed against Twitter on its own platform Thursday, accusing the company of trying to make the case that mail-in ballots are not subject to fraud. He called Twitter’s fact-check feature “political activism.”

Trump mentioned this incident Thursday, accusing the company of editorializing by selectively choosing what it does – and does not—fact-check.

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said during an interview with Fox News that his company had a “different policy” than Twitter where fact-checking is concerned.

"I just believe strongly that Facebook shouldn't be the arbiter of truth of everything that people say online," Zuckerberg said. "Private companies probably shouldn't be, especially these platform companies, shouldn't be in the position of doing that."

Fox News and FOX Business are owned by the same parent company.

Trump has long been critical of how he perceives he has been treated by certain tech companies, ranging from Google to Twitter.

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The president stopped short of saying he would delete his Twitter profile, however, saying he needs a method to communicate directly with the public as a means to circumvent the “fake news.”

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