President Donald Trump’s administration is making its stance on social media censorship crystal clear.
The president signed a groundbreaking executive order on Thursday targeting social media companies for unfairly censoring certain users.
The executive order calls for new regulations and for companies such as Twitter to be treated as editors rather than platforms.
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) May 28, 2020
“The choices that Twitter makes when it chooses to suppress, edit, blacklist, shadow-ban are editorial decisions, pure and simple,” Trump said at the signing.
“In those moments Twitter ceases to be a neutral public platform and they become an editor with a viewpoint and I think we can say that about others also, whether you’re looking at Google, whether you’re looking at Facebook and perhaps others.”
This order will remove liability shields that organizations such as Twitter benefit from because they are known as a “neutral platform” rather than an “editor with a viewpoint.” Social media companies engaging in censorship “will not be able to keep their liability shield,” Trump announced.
The signing of this order follows a run-in the president had with Twitter this week.
Twitter attached informational labels to two of Trump’s tweets on Tuesday that read: “Get the facts about mail-in ballots.” The labels linked to a fact check claiming “Trump makes unsubstantiated claim that mail-in ballots will lead to voter fraud.”
….living in the state, no matter who they are or how they got there, will get one. That will be followed up with professionals telling all of these people, many of whom have never even thought of voting before, how, and for whom, to vote. This will be a Rigged Election. No way!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 26, 2020
During a news briefing on Thursday, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany addressed the apparent reluctance that companies like Facebook and Twitter have with censoring Chinese disinformation.
“Facebook and Twitter have both taken paid advertising that spread disinformation about China’s mass imprisonment of religious minorities and Twitter has allowed Chinese officials to use its platforms to spread misinformation about the coronavirus, undermine the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong and more,” McEnany said.
“And then back in March, a Chinese official began spreading a conspiracy theory on Twitter, an egregious one, that our U.S. military was responsible for the spread of the coronavirus.”
The March conspiracy theory mentioned by McEnany was tweeted by a Chinese government official on March 12 claiming that “[i]t might be US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan.” The official’s tweet was marked with a similar “get the facts” label.
The tweet was not censored until the White House “raised concerns about it” on Thursday.
McEnany ended the briefing explaining the purpose of the order.
“The president will take action to ensure that big tech does not stifle free speech and that the rights of all Americans to speak, tweet and post are protected,” she said.
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