Stung By Twitter, Trump Signs Executive Order To Weaken Social Media Companies

US President Donald Trump speaks before signing an executive order aimed at curbing protections for social media giants in the Oval Office of the White House

President Donald Trump is escalating his war on social media companies, signing an executive order challenging the liability protections that have served as a bedrock for unfettered speech on the internet. "I just believe strongly that Facebook shouldn't be the arbiter of truth of everything that people say online", he said.

Twitter also added fact-checks to tweets from China's foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian, who said the coronavirus outbreak might have started in the USA and then spread to China by the US military.

Mr Trump and his campaign reacted after Twitter added a warning phrase to two tweets by the President that called mail-in ballots "fraudulent" and predicted "mail boxes will be robbed". "They can do whatever they want to do", Jones said.

Two administration officials outlined the draft order on the condition of anonymity because it was still being finalized Thursday morning.

In the statement, Dorsey referenced comments Mark Zuckerberg made to Fox News contrasting Facebook's obsessively neutral approach to policing its platform with Twitter's present situation.

The social media giant left Trump's post on mail-in ballots on Tuesday untouched. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., said adding warning labels to the president's tweets is an editorial decision that shows the social media platform is acting more like a publisher than an Internet forum and that the company should lose its special protection.

Reportedly enraged, the president pushed through an executive order that takes aim at companies protected from liability under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

The executive order was issued just days after Twitter decided for the first time to fact-check the President.

"We have a different policy than, I think, Twitter on this", Facebook cofounder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg told Fox News in a clip posted online on Wednesday. The executive order signed by Trump on Thursday points out that their status as platforms, and immunity from endless civil lawsuits, depends on their removal of controversial content being done "in good faith".

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey: We’ll continue to point out incorrect or disputed information about elections globally

For years, Twitter and Facebook have enjoyed a healthy rivalry: They've competed for acquisitions, talent and advertising dollars, and sometimes gone so far as to copy each others' features in the never-ending pursuit to grow their audiences.

Why it matters: The labels were added after criticism that Twitter had fact-checked tweets from President Trump about mail-in voting, but not other false claims from Chinese Communist Party officials and other US adversaries.

Trump was joined during the signing by Attorney General William Barr, who has previously expressed interest in stripping away or limiting the same legal protections for tech companies.

Early Wednesday, Trump demanded social media platforms "clean up your act" as he warned his administration will begin to regulate and even shutter such websites after Twitter, for the first time ever, fact-checked his tweets.

With the USA election just six months away, can social media companies balance freedom of speech while rooting out misinformation?

A day after Twitter's fact-check flagging of two Trump posts drew the President's ire, he opened the day tweeting - "This will be a Big Day for Social Media and FAIRNESS!"

Another page on the social media site called Trump's tweets 'unsubstantiated, ' according to fact-checkers from CNN, Washington Post and other mainstream news outlets. Twitter labeled them with a message urging users to "Get the facts about mail-in ballots".

Critics says Section 230 gives tech companies too much power over what is and is not allowed on their sites.

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