The legal limits of Trump's executive order on social media

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The president's latest confrontation with Twitter was set off after the tech company placed fact-checking warnings on two of his tweets that claimed, without evidence, that casting ballots by mail allows for voter fraud.Voting by mail has been used for years in both Democratic and Republican states without reports of widespread fraud. Ron Wyden, have repeatedly said their intent behind the law was to ensure tech platforms can not be sued over their handling of most user content.

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters at a news briefing that the executive order could be released on Thursday. She said their goal is to avoid taxes "and they don't want to be regulated, so they pander to the White House". Trump has a history of using executive orders to make political statements when his authority is limited.

Trump's sparring with Silicon Valley has become another battle in the 2020 election, as conservatives complain that their voices are not heard and liberals demand greater efforts to flag deliberate falsehoods and disinformation - especially from the president. The changes, if upheld in court, could expose social media companies to more lawsuits.

It gives regulators the power to pursue legal actions against firms such as Facebook and Twitter for the way they police content on their platforms.

Attorney General William Barr, who joined Trump for his remarks, said the order would not repeal Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which provides social-media companies their liability protection.

"But it's been stretched and I don't know of anyone in Capitol Hill who doesn't agree that it's been stretched beyond its original intention", he said. "I think this will help get back to the right balance".

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.

Twitter has applied a fact check tag to at least two posts by Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Zhao Lijian, both of which advanced questions about whether the Covid-19 virus began in the U.S. rather than China. Twitter has since added the fact-check link to his tweets.

Trump is a prolific user of Twitter, often tweeting or retweeting dozens of times a day.

"The president is trying to frighten, coerce, scare, cajole social media companies to leave him alone and not do what Twitter has just done to him", said Jack Balkin, a Yale University constitutional law professor.

Twitter for the first time slapped a "misleading" warning label on tweets from President Donald Trump, prompting an angry response from the US leader who vowed to regulate or shut down social media platforms. It states, "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". That means companies don't have to sift through millions of posts to make sure they are not violating any laws before allowing them to appear online.

For all his protests, Trump is a political giant on social media. His campaign manager, Brad Parscale, said Twitter's "clear political bias" had led the campaign to pull "all our advertising from Twitter months ago".

The president has complained about Twitter's efforts to combat manipulative and abusive content by deleting fake profiles - leading to a decline of hundreds of thousands of users in his follower count.

"I don't think that Facebook or internet platforms, in general, should be arbiters of truth".



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