United States President Donald Trump on Thursday signed an order to remove legal protection given to social media giants, just days after Twitter labelled his tweet as misleading, AFP reported. Critics have called his move an act of political revenge.
The order signed by Trump calls on government regulators to asses if online platforms should be eligible for liability protection for content posted by the users. The order, if enforced, could treat online platforms as “publishers” responsible for user-generated content. As a result, social media giants like Twitter and Facebook would become open to lawsuits and increased government scrutiny.
At a press conference, Trump said that he signed the order because tech firms “have had unchecked power” to censor, restrict and shape the communication between citizens or large public audiences. “We can’t let this continue to happen,” Trump said.
Trump has been repeatedly accused of tweeting unsubstantiated information. The long-running dispute between the US president and social media companies erupted again on Tuesday, when two of his posts were labelled for a fact-check by Twitter for the first time. Trump had tweeted – without giving any evidence – that more mail-in voting would lead to a “rigged election” in November.
After the fact-check, Trump on Wednesday threatened to “strongly regulate” social media platforms, and said Republicans felt the platforms “totally silence conservatives”.
Twitter’s Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey responded to Trump’s criticism of the platform’s fact-checking policies in a series of tweets and asked him to leave employees out of the controversy.
Critics, however, said Trump has no authority to regulate private internet operators. The American Civil Liberties Union called Trump’s order “a blatant and unconstitutional threat” to punish social media companies. “The president has no authority to rewrite a congressional statute with an executive order imposing a flawed interpretation of Section 230,” the organisation said in a tweet.