After Trump threw a tantrum over Twitter doing the bare-minimum to fact-check his deliberately misleading tweets, Trump announced plans to sign an Executive Order that forces social media to "protect" "free speech." Because government-approved top-down authoritarian control of private companies is apparently now a central tenet of the Republican Party.
Content Moderation expert Kate Klonick shared a draft of the order.
You can read the full document here, which hinges on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (as well as the continued wolf-crying fantasy of "conservative censorship"). If you want the sparknotes, Vice has a pretty comprehensive breakdown:
As far as legislation goes, the first subsection of 230 is concise and powerful: "No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider."
In the order, Trump also makes the argument that social media companies' actions should not "infringe on protected speech," which would be a massive change from Section 230 as it's currently worded, which makes an explicit carve-out for restricting protected speech. This will, unequivocally, change the internet as a whole and make it worse. Straight-up neo-Nazi propaganda might be constitutionally protected speech, for example, but social media companies currently regularly remove such content. Right now, those people simply congregate on the platforms that do choose to leave such content up, and they do exist. If all protected speech was allowed on all platforms, it would get very ugly very quickly.
Essentially, the current state of Section 230 asserts that social media companies are not personally liable for user-created content. People can post what they want, and the private company has no responsibility for it; at the same time, they can use their discretion to moderate the content being shared through their platform, depending on internal policies, or legal requests. And to be fair, a lot of social media companies are already bad at this. But having them act as full-time intermediary arbiters of the voice of the government is even worse.
Trump’s Executive Order Could Ruin the Internet Over a Twitter Beef [Jordan Pearson and Jason Koebler / Vice]
Trump Prepares Order to Limit Social Media Companies’ Protections [Maggie Haberman and Kate Conger / The New York Times]
Image: Ruperto Miller / Flickr (Public Domain)