REVIEW - Trump Orders Regulation Of Social Media, Dems Argue Move Will Protect Disinformation

WASHINGTON (Pakistan Point News / Sputnik - 29th May, 2020) US President Donald Trump signed an executive order calling for a series of legislative and legal actions to prevent popular social media platforms from policing their users' content while his rivals said the move will protect the flow of disinformation.

The president's action comes after an unprecedented decision by Twitter this week to apply a fact-checking label to his content alleging that mail-in ballots are a source of voter fraud.

"They have had unchecked power to censor, restrict, edit, shape, hide, alter virtually any form of communication between private citizens and larger public audiences. There is no precedent in American history for so small a number of corporations to control so large a sphere of human interaction," Trump lashed out at social media giants, mentioning specifically Twitter, Google and Facebook.

"Imagine if your phone company silences or edits your conversation. Social media companies are vastly more powerful and more rich than any phone company in the United States," he added.

Trump directed relevant agencies to devise ways to strip social media of legal immunity granted to them by a 1996 law for a third-party content and their own "good-faith efforts" to moderate their platforms.

"Currently social media giants like Twitter receive an unprecedented liability shield based on the theory that they are a neutral platform which they are not, not an editor with a view point," Trump explained. "My executive order calls for new regulations... to make it that social media companies that engage in censoring or any political conduct will not be able to keep their liability shield."

The executive order further instructs the Federal Trade Commission to prohibit social media companies from engaging in "any deceptive acts or practices affecting commerce."

"Additionally, I am directing the Attorney General to work cooperatively with the states... to enforce their own laws against such deceptive business practices. The states have broad and powerful authorities to regulate in this arena," Trump added.

US Attorney General William Barr present at the event agreed that social media have essentially become "editors and publishers" and therefore are not entitled to a liability shield. He also accused them of censoring particular content "at the direction of foreign governments like communist China."

Trump in his executive order directed the US administration to develop policies and procedures to ensure that "taxpayers' Dollars are not going in any social media company that represses free speech."

"The government spends billions of dollars on giving them money. They are rich enough," he said.

Trump added that he will use in his bid both lawsuits and legislation and did not rule out bipartisan support.

"And the legislation will start immediately," he said.

Trump stopped shy of committing to delete his popular and frequently used Twitter account.

"If you weren't fake I wouldn't even think about it. I would do it in a heartbeat. But the news is fake," he responded to a reporter's question.

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Trump's arch-critic, issued a statement lauding Twitter for its decision to fact-check the president's posts, but lashed out at social media platforms in general for opting "to make money at the expense of the truth."

"The President's Executive Order does nothing to address big internet companies' complete failure to fight the spread of disinformation. Instead, the President is encouraging Facebook and other social media giants to continue to exploit and profit off falsehoods with total impunity - while at the same time directing the federal government to dismantle efforts to help users distinguish fact from fiction," Pelosi said in a statement.

Democratic lawmakers also spun Trump's order into an attempt to deflect from the administration's poor response in handling the coronavirus pandemic.

"Mr. President, you spread blatant falsehoods about mail-in voting, and don't like being called out on it. We get it. But here's what really matters: 100,000 Americans have died from Coronavirus. If you don't like Twitter, leave it. But spend your time trying to save lives," Congressman Adam Schiff said in a tweet.

Congressman Ted Lieu called into question the legality of Trump's effort and said he was delusional if he thinks bipartisan measures will be forthcoming.

In the order Trump said he will file a petition for rulemaking with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requesting that the agency expeditiously propose regulations.

"Dear @realDonaldTrump: Your Executive Order is a farce. The courts interpret Section 230, not @FCC. Your 'US policy' doesn't matter if it conflicts with the statute or case law. That's why your EO calls for legislation, which is dead on arrival in @HouseJudiciary. Go pound sand," Lieu said in a tweet.