President Trump finally did it—after years of calls from blackballed conservatives, GEOTUS signed an executive order yesterday removing liability protections for social media companies that censor users based on their political views.
Here is a lengthy excerpt from Fox News‘s reporting:
The president’s order, which also cuts federal funding for social media platforms that censor users’ political views, came just two days after Twitter took the unprecedented step of slapping a “misleading” warning label on two of Trump’s tweets concerning the fraud risks of nationwide mail-in balloting. The move immediately backfired: Experts disputed that Trump’s tweet was actually misleading, in part because mail-in balloting has been linked to ongoing fraud; Twitter’s fact-check itself contained false statements; and Twitter failed to apply the standard of review to other users.
At Thursday’s signing ceremony, Trump called the fact-check “egregious,” and held up a photo of Twitter executive Yoel Roth, who heads up the site’s fact-checking and rules-making operation. Fox News reported on Wednesday that Roth has mocked Trump supporters, called Trump’s team “ACTUAL NAZIS,” slammed “scary trannies” in New York City, and called GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell a “bag of farts.” (In a statement, Twitter did not dispute Fox News’ reporting, but called it “unfortunate.”)
“My executive order calls for new regulations under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act to make it so that social media companies that engage in censoring any political conduct will not be able to keep their liability shield,” the president said.
Essentially, social media platforms have always had a choice: either act as a publisher, in which case you’re liable for what users post, but you can remove and censor content as you see fit; or act as a neutral platform, in which case you’re protected from liability for what users post. Twitter, Facebook, et. al., are trying to have the best of both worlds—ban political posts and users with which they disagree under the companies’ “Terms of Services,” while disclaiming responsibility for everything else.
It’s also clear that Big Tech is aligned aggressively against Trump (such as Alex Jones’s remarkably coordinated deplatforming). Various companies’ Terms of Service have morphed surreptitiously to ban conservatives on flimsy grounds, or even no grounds at all, such as Laura Loomer, who is running for Congress in Florida (and seems likely to win). Gavin McInnes, who says interesting things in a mildly edgy way, is another example (he’s lived an interesting life and says things bluntly, but he’s very humane, he’s not a racist, and he just wants people to be able to enjoy life and work hard). Milo Yiannopoulos, too, has been effectively depersoned from social media outside of Telegram and a handful of smaller platforms.
Libertarians will screech, “build your own platform,” but it’s not practical. Your voice is, essentially, online (and your livelihood—PayPal banning people, and encouraging banks to do the same, is particularly chilling). Gab is emerging as an alternative, I suppose. But once the SJW Wokesters start infiltrating these places, then there’s some other platform to which conservatives will have to move.
There are complex issues here, and I don’t generally like the idea of government regulating companies or busting them up (which we probably should do to Google; anti-trust regulation is prudent). But the government’s role is to protect our rights, freedom of speech being among them.
Quite frankly, we live in such a polarized age, I don’t trust the hyper-progressive-dominated boards and leadership of major tech companies to act in good faith re: conservatives. This issue is fundamentally about free speech and a fair marketplace of ideas. Sometimes the market place is going to have some guy in a trench coat selling Nazi watches in a dark alley, but the vast majority of folks will go for more high-quality fare—unless you ghettoize them into the back alley.
Of course, this executive order doesn’t address the constant surveillance tech companies but us under every time we use their services or their devices. That’s the biggest fear: the tech companies are more powerful than the government, and will aid a cooperative one and undermine a hostile one. We’re seeing the latter right now, as social media companies are doing everything they can to undermine President Trump’s reelection.
At the very least, let’s hope this EO will begin correcting course.