Free Speech

Trump's Social Media Executive Order Would Let Unelected Bureaucrats Police Online Speech

It would essentially be a Fairness Doctrine for the internet.

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President Donald Trump is reportedly drafting an executive order to address allegations of bias at tech companies, which he says have unduly targeted conservatives. Although ostensibly offered in service of free speech, the order would almost certainly increase censorship instead.

The measure is far from concrete and "has already taken many different forms," Politico reports. But the most recent version, obtained by CNN, would instruct the Federal Communications Commission and Federal Trade Commission to verify that social media platforms operate with political neutrality when they moderate content. If they fail to do so, the platforms could be stripped of the protections afforded under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

As it currently stands, that rule shields social media companies from certain criminal and civil liabilities surrounding the millions of posts that third parties publish on their sites every day. Revoking those protections would not encourage the free flow of content online. It would hamper it, as moderators would inevitably move toward cracking down on any potentially defamatory post.

A great deal of misunderstanding around Section 230 continues to proliferate. Tech company critics—spearheaded by Sens. Josh Hawley (R–Mo.) and Ted Cruz (R–Texas)—accuse social media sites of breaching the law when they remove content they deem inflammatory. Liability protections are only legally afforded if sites act neutrally, right?

Wrong. The law explicitly allows platforms to moderate content, stipulating that they may do so without being held accountable for every user post. Indeed, that's part of the point of the law. While implicitly acknowledging the value of open dialogue online, it concedes that, to make the internet a more tolerable place, private companies should be free to scrub posts that they feel cross a line. In other words, tech platforms are not removing content in spite of Section 230; they're allowed to do it because of Section 230.

It is especially ironic that conservatives would take up this cause after spending years warning about the evils of the Fairness Doctrine. That rule, enforced from the 1940s through the '80s, allowed the Federal Communications Commission to penalize broadcasters for being unbalanced. In theory, the doctrine was supposed to expand the range of views heard on TV and radio. Yet in practice, politicians and pressure groups used it to harass stations that aired opinions they disliked, and many stations got more skittish about airing controversial opinions at all.

The death of the Fairness Doctrine is directly related to the rise of right-wing talk radio, and conservatives have spent decades warning that the Democrats would like to bring the law back. But now the tables have turned, and it's conservatives who are pushing for what would essentially be a Fairness Doctrine for the internet.

NEXT: The Sec. 230 Temperature is Rising

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101 responses to “Trump's Social Media Executive Order Would Let Unelected Bureaucrats Police Online Speech

  1. In other words, tech platforms are not removing content in spite of Section 230; they’re allowed to do it because of Section 230.

    Is it Reason’s claim that absent Section 230 that no online host could remove user-generated content?

    1. Reason doesnt have an actual claim in this regard. They just keep screaming private business as if it’s an argument.

      1. “Reason doesnt have an actual claim in this regard. They just keep screaming private business as if it’s an argument.”

        Doesn’t have to be an argument; it’s a fact.

        1. Doesn’t have to be an argument; it’s a fact.

          It’s far from “a fact” that Google, Facebook, and Twitter are pure private businesses. First of all, they receive government funding for some of their activities. Second, they are subject to government regulation and demands and they comply. Third, they have been strongly supportive of some elected officials and have received political support from those elected officials in return.

      2. Standard Oil and Ma Bell were broken up for less than what Twitter does in a week, Google/Youtube and Facebook do in a fortnight, and Apple does in a month. The “private business”-argument ship sailed long ago.

        1. My view is that online chat, etc. websites are the property of the website’s owner, and he or she is able to suppress any comment they wants to. Imagine telling the New York Times that their paper will no longer be able to print or not print what they wish to in the paper without federal government approval.

          1. “Imagine telling the New York Times that their paper will no longer be able to print or not print what they wish to in the paper”
            Bad analogy. Google, Twitter and Facebook have been expressly claiming that they’re not anything like the NYT, and hence not responsible for what is published on their platforms.
            They’re claiming rights but not responsibilities.

          2. Imagine telling the New York Times that their paper will no longer be able to print or not print what they wish to in the paper without federal government approval.

            Well, fortunately, nobody is proposing that.

            What people are proposing is to hold Google, Facebook, and Twitter responsible for the content on their platforms in the same way as the NYT is already responsible for the content on their platforms.

            That’s because right now, Google, Facebook, and Twitter have a special exemption from liability that many other online publishers don’t enjoy. That exemption was granted for content-neutral “infrastructure” platforms, but Google, Facebook, and Twitter have ceased to be content-neutral, so they shouldn’t enjoy those protections anymore.

        2. Yes, but Standard Oil and Ma Bell should NOT have been broken up. What right do you or the government have to tell the maker of a product what he or she can charge for it. Dollars to donuts you are a “Progressive” which is just another name for Communism without (for now) the concentration camps.

        3. “Standard Oil and Ma Bell were broken up for less than what Twitter does in a week, Google/Youtube and Facebook do in a fortnight, and Apple does in a month. The “private business”-argument ship sailed long ago.”
          Your bullshit was called long ago; neither of those ‘breakups’ accomplished anything.
          But dimbulb statists luv them some government intervention anyhow, right, dimbulb statist?

    2. Is it Reason’s claim that absent Section 230 that no online host could remove user-generated content?

      No. Reason’s claim is that moderating content does not automatically exempt anyone from Section 230 since Section 230 specifically says that removing user-generated content does not exempt one from Section 230.

      1. Moderating content does not ‘exempt’ anyone from Section 230.

        But section 230 does not provide any special protections for content providers. In fact the law specifically notes that they are indeed publishers.

        (c)Protection for “Good Samaritan” blocking and screening of offensive material
        (1)Treatment of publisher or speaker
        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.

        Key word: Another.

        And just who qualifies as a ‘content provider’ you ask? Well the law conveniently defines that.

        (f)Definitions As used in this section:

        (3)Information content provider
        The term “information content provider” means any person or entity that is responsible, in whole or in part, for the creation or development of information provided through the Internet or any other interactive computer service.

        Please take special note of the words ‘whole or in part.’ By this definition Google, Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, etc. through their moderation, and curation of what appears at any given moment on their sites, are all content providers. As such they are (at least by a plain reading of this law) liable for whatever appears on their OWN interactive computer service.

        It is they who – falsely – claim protection from liability as ‘platforms’ even though no such verbiage exists in the law.

  2. I see Reason is still avoiding the actual argument of contractual arguments. There is also the idea of honesty in advertisement. Dont advertise as a free speech platform of you’re one sided.

    It’s been weird watching Reason vociferously defend excess legal protections for corporations.

    1. It’s been weird watching Reason vociferously defend excess legal protections for corporations.

      The other day you were saying that being anti-corporation is definitely an explicitly left-wing position vis-a-vis the El Paso shooter.

      What changed?

      1. So anything short of support for excess legal protections = anti-corporation?

      2. Trump’s position?

    2. +100

    3. “It’s been weird watching Reason vociferously defend excess legal protections for corporations.”

      Stranger yet are those claiming to be libertarians pushing for government control of private businesses.

      1. Stranger yet are those claiming to be libertarians pushing for government control of private businesses.

        Even stranger yet are those claiming to be libertarians defending regulatory capture.

  3. order the Federal Communications Commission and Federal Trade Commission to verify that social media platforms operate with political neutrality when they moderate content

    Is this actually something they can do? I mean, is there actually any sort of rule that says social media platforms are supposed to be operating with political neutrality? Can the president issue an executive order that all restaurants have to have both Coke and Pepsi drinks on their menus? Defending this sort of executive order is some fucked-up shit if there isn’t actually any rule that says they’re supposed to be neutral and Trump is just making a new law out of whole cloth.

    1. Can the president issue an executive order that all restaurants have to have both Coke and Pepsi drinks on their menus?

      Commerce Clause!

    2. Bias in moderation/censorship reveals implicit endorsement, selective publishing, of the content that remains.
      Any other publishers that endorse/publish potentially defamatory content are and would be liable to civil suits for defamation.
      Section 230 protects online content hosts from facing the civil suits any other publisher would have to defend in court, using the reasoning that online content hosts are just open access platforms rather than publishers.
      Presumably, acting not as an open access platform but rather as a publisher would exempt said content host from 230 protection.

      *another term for publisher would be content provider (rather than host)

    3. I mean, is there actually any sort of rule that says social media platforms are supposed to be operating with political neutrality?
      The regulation cited has, as a qualifier, that content moderation for objectionable material shall be immune from liability if it is done “in good faith”.
      It is disingenuous to say that moderation of “objectionable” content, with a political bias, is a good faith exercise.
      An executive order would require that the law treat content moderators as the regulation states, instead of ignoring that component.

      1. Yes, and notice that clause isn’t mentioned in the OP. All Trump is doing is ordering that the actual terms of Section 230 be enforced.

        I think Binion unavoidably knows this, too. He just wants to pretend that “good faith” clause isn’t actually part of the law.

    4. is there actually any sort of rule that says social media platforms are supposed to be operating with political neutrality?

      IMO the issue arise when they are allowing elected officials uncensored/unmoderated access to that platform for their own PR outreach. Once that happens, then it does seem to me that they are an extension of the 1st Amendment. Where censoring others would then be at least a violation of right to petition govt for redress of grievances.

      Course the ‘solution’ in that case is to kick the pols off the platform – but that also means those platforms would lose a lot of eyeballs.

  4. Whining, authoritarian right-wing losers are among my favorite faux libertarians.

    1. Do you just have a Word file of lines that you copy and paste over and over again? Because that what it seems like.

      1. Give him a break, he will eventually type the complete works of William Shakespeare but needs an infinite amount of his family’s help.

      2. Learn to code.
        No need to actually cut and paste yourself. A few common subroutines, a control module or two, and ta-da! you have your very own bot.

      3. Have you tried hitting it? It might stop repeating if you hit it.

  5. The internet just might, really, be, the last bastion of the first amendment. But the nanny’s in our government won’t stand for that.

    MOFA

  6. Trump’s Social Media Executive Order Would Let Unelected Bureaucrats Police Online Speech

    Better we should let anonymous SJW cubicle dwellers continue policing online speech. Because they work for companies and companies can never do too much damage because all you have to do is make your own company to correct problems.

    1. companies can never do too much damage because all you have to do is make your own company to correct problems

      That’s exactly right. Or were you being sarcastic?

      1. Yeah, just open your own bank when Citibank kicks you off because you’re a legitimate gun dealer. Or make your own google, twitter, facebook, youtube or PayPal when some SJW cubicle geek doesn’t like what you say. And then make your own web hosting service if WordPress finds you infra dig. Or become your own domain registry….

        1. Quit whining, clingers.

        2. Homple
          August.9.2019 at 6:30 pm
          “Yeah, just open your own bank when Citibank kicks you off because you’re a legitimate gun dealer.”

          Show us where he touched you.

    2. That’s funny, because the argument of “I want government to do X because I don’t trust the private sector to do X” is literally the Democrats’ argument when it comes to providing health care. And now, evidently, is the Republicans’ argument when it comes to moderating Internet speech.

      1. I don’t often need strong enforcement of my contract rights, but when I do, I have the government do it.

        Just like the Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians Anabaptists and Zoroastrians.

        1. Homple
          August.9.2019 at 6:34 pm
          “I don’t often need strong enforcement of my contract rights, but when I do, I have the government do it.”

          What “contract rights” were violated, and you’d better be quite specific. I’m fed up with whiny pieces of shit.

          1. They’re violating their own terms of service, by making fraudulent claims that people they don’t like are violating those terms.

      2. Kettle = Black.

      3. The trouble is, that internet free speech is indeed being politically moderated already and it is not by the government. Trump is attempting to rectify this by forcing these internet companies to adhere to 230.
        It is no longer an argument that this moderation is not happening. The evidence is overwhelming. Hate speech on the left is openly allowed while those on the right are being systematically removed of demonetarised daily.
        A prime example is Steven Crowther. He was investigated by youtube and found that he had not broken any of their rules but under immense pressure from a corporate media outlet they still decided to demonetarise every single one of his videos, and Crowther is part of the partnership program and has been on youtube for years.
        This is absolutely not uncommon. Clearly, these internet media companies are violating the spirit, if not the purpose of 230.

    3. “Better we should let anonymous SJW cubicle dwellers continue policing online speech.”

      Yes, we should.

      1. “Better we should let anonymous SJW cubicle dwellers continue policing online speech.”

        Not the best of all possibilities, but better than the government doing so. The government has no legitimate reason to police or regulate the internet.

        1. “Not the best of all possibilities, but better than the government doing so. The government has no legitimate reason to police or regulate the internet.”

          Dunno who to credit:
          “Utopia is not an option.”
          All these wanna-be libertarians willing to turn over control of the net to government censors make it quite clear that government schools are failing in their supposed role’ of educating kids.

          1. Overall, I tend to agree with that. Of course, there was a time, not that long ago (1979), when there was no Ministry of Education… er… excuse me… Department Education, and schools were more likely to teach based in response to their community needs. Depending on your “community,” that might still not be all that hot, but I will definitely take it over centralized education.

            Note: there WAS a federal Dept of Ed established in 1867, but it was more like a “clearing house” for assessing “best practices” and making such information available to educators. Funny that: what was once a government service has now become an overlord. Predictable?

  7. Trump’s Social Media Executive Order Would Let Unelected Bureaucrats Police Online Speech
    So? They’ll join the rest of the bureaucrats policing everything else.

  8. But the most recent version, obtained by CNN, would order the Federal Communications Commission and Federal Trade Commission to verify that social media platforms operate with political neutrality when they moderate content. If they fail to do so, the platforms could be stripped of the protections afforded under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

    Old And Busted: “How dare the president use executive orders to do an end-run around Congress!”
    The New Hotness: “Three cheers for the president to use executive orders to do an end-run around an intransigent Congress!”

  9. Am I really expected to take Politico and CNN as sources?
    I would sooner take economic advice from whats-her-name from NYC.

    1. Binion’s pants ain’t gonna shit themselves.

      No, wait…

    2. Excellent point. And frankly I’m disappointed in the article’s lack of libertarian perspective.

      The measure [from biased liberal sources] would instruct the FCC and FTC to verify that social media platforms operate with political neutrality when they moderate content.

      Where’s the libertarian perspective, and I’d say goal, that instead of media companies staffing censors to censor conservatives to satisfy liberal politicians or liberal media platform owners, media companies COULD EASILY CHOOSE TO NOT CENSOR? Thereby making Trump’s EO moot?

      Come on Binion, you’re working for a MSM media company that promotes libertarian ideas. But it seems Binion is trying to score points positioning himself as anti-Trump. It’s better to be pro-freedom. While Binion writes “the order would almost certainly increase censorship instead”, seems to me, it would almost certainly lead to many social media platforms choosing to abolish their censor boards, at least the ones not catering to or controlled by liberal censors. Doing so saves them money, and shows they are unbiased ensuring they don’t drive customers away (except those that want a company that censors conservatives as Democrats and liberals want).

      And note, I’ve yet to see any MSM outlet, censoring liberals. This is mostly a one sided problem.

  10. Even if you’re for this horrible executive order, what gives Trump the power to essentially pass Hawley’s bill through executive order?

    1. Dunno, the same God-like power that let him outlaw bump stocks?

      1. Don’t forget countless tariffs for #NationalSecurity

        Even the most hardened Trump supporter should be hard-pressed to defend the executive overreach after spending 8 years bitching about Obama.

        1. Trump supporters have little more than a year left to do anything other than get stomped in the culture war, comply obsequiously with the preferences of their betters, and be replaced.

          Have fun while you can, clingers.

          1. “Trump supporters have little more than a year left to do anything other than get stomped in the culture war, comply obsequiously with the preferences of their betters, and be replaced.
            Have fun while you can, clingers.”

            I see our fucking bigoted asshole has nothing to say about the issue, which is a bit strange; as a lefty asshole, he’d love what Trump is supposedly doing here. But his TDS simply turns the matter into *TRUMP*!.
            Fuck off and die, you pathetic piece of shit; we hope your case of TDS ends up in a long and very painful death, as I’m sure your family does.

  11. So, not only does CNN not have access to the actual draft executive order, they refuse to even publish the “draft summary” that they do have. Which means that we just have to trust that CNN isn’t spouting more bullshit than produced by all the beef in Texas. Yeah, I think I’ll wait till something a wee bit more concrete shows up.

    1. Amen. It’s as believable as their “anonymous sources”.

    2. There it is – Judgement will have to wait on this one till “something” is actually presented.

  12. It sounds like Trump wants TEH Internetwebztubez (or “net” for short) to be impartial with the information on it – some might even go as far to say treat all content with neutrality.

    I wonder if there’s a name for that.

    1. Sounds like EO is pitching that lame BS from turd: Government price fixing makes us more free.

  13. The MSM Propagandists believe what Trump says only when it fits their Narrative of Orange man bad.

    1. OMG A BUNCH OF UNELECTED BUREAUCRATS WOULD BE IN CHARGE OF THIS JUST LIKE RIGHT NOW!! WORLD ENDING!!!

      Another retarded take from libertine land.

      1. I dont know why it keeps threading my comments as a reply when I haven’t hit the reply option lol

        1. reason is more concerned about making sure videos autoplay than making sure their website is stable and works correctly.

        2. Maybe because you’re so fucking stupid you can’t figure it out? Seems that way.

      2. “OMG A BUNCH OF UNELECTED BUREAUCRATS WOULD BE IN CHARGE OF THIS JUST LIKE RIGHT NOW!! WORLD ENDING!!!”

        Were you born a fucking idiot, or did you spend long years in training?
        Hints:
        The ones doing it now have not the ability to use guns to enforce the choices.
        The ones doing it now have to respond to competition when another platform offers alternatives.
        IOWs, your comment is but another fucking idiotic claim by one more idiotic statist.
        Fuck off, slaver.

  14. “The law explicitly allows platforms to moderate content, stipulating that they may do so without being held accountable for every user post.”

    The law explicitly allows platforms to moderate content in good faith. Funny how you didn’t think that language in the law was necessary to acknowledge.

  15. “Trump’s Social Media Executive Order Would Let Unelected Bureaucrats Police Online Speech”

    Different from now…how?

    1. These bureaucrats would be government employees. Traditionally libertarians are against that.

  16. While social media companies are private property, they are also corporations. The benefits of that come with strings attached. Either social media sites are publications, in which case they are legally liable for everything they publish, or they are conduits (like the phone company), in which case they should not be allowed to censor any speech.

    1. What if they are not like either of those?

      Social media is different from a publisher like a newspaper and from the phone company. In providing a platform for the public to publish their own content I see no problem with things as they are. The website can moderate or not as they see fit. They also should not be held liable for what people may say.

      To assume otherwise is to stifle free expression from both the host and the guest. The host has to set rigid guidelines for fear of liability. The guest then cannot find a platform willing to allow “unacceptable” content. It is censorship in its most severe form. We end up with what happens in China.

      1. That is exactly the point. Under section 230 these platforms are exempt from prosecution for the content and therefore have no reason to censor the content.
        The other major point is that the censorship is provably bias against right wing content providers making the censorship politically motivated. There is masses of evidence to back up this claim.
        Trump’s EO is to force these tech companies to adhere to section 230.

    2. Art Gecko
      August.10.2019 at 3:35 pm
      “While social media companies are private property, they are also corporations. The benefits of that come with strings attached.”
      First, corporations have no benefits and someone with an 8th grade education should know that.

      “Either social media sites are publications, in which case they are legally liable for everything they publish, or they are conduits (like the phone company), in which case they should not be allowed to censor any speech.”
      Your claims are bullshit; try again.

      1. First, corporations have no benefits and someone with an 8th grade education should know that.

        Corporations shield both investors and employees from a variety of lawsuits and liability.

        Your claims are bullshit; try again.

        Your defense of regulatory capture is disturbingly anti-libertarian.

  17. So question, what stops me from making a “social media platform” with long form blog posts where I shadow ban any post not from one of my paid reporters. Essentially creating a newspaper but completely immune to any and all libel/defamation laws?

    1. What was that word salad intended to convey?

      1. Other than you ability to generate bullshit.

    2. OK, after taking the time to translate ‘statist’ into English:

      “So question, what stops me from making a “social media platform” with long form blog posts where I shadow ban any post not from one of my paid reporters”

      Competition, you fucking idiot.

      1. Competition, you fucking idiot.

        Contrary to the belief of competition that “fucking idiots” have of competition, it’s quite common for a market segment to have just one or two dominant players in it; competition usually doesn’t come from other companies making the same product cheaper or better, it comes from different market segments competing with each other. But the competitive advantage (immunity from certain lawsuits) that Section 230 confers applies only to that single market segment.

        That’s the essence of regulatory capture: exemptions and advantages narrowly tailored to your company or market segment. And that’s what you’re defending, mislabeling it as if it was some kind of libertarian achievement.

  18. Wasn’t it just yesterday that Democrats were running around lobbying for laws against using “trigger” words? Like “he” or “she” and those “sexist” bathroom signs?

    Another fun fact – The FCC was started to “price fix” the AT&T telephone system. For those old enough to remember – we all know where that went ($4.50/minute). There really is no monopoly to online content and the E.O. really wouldn’t make a monopoly either but its not needed and it won’t help. If the left cheerleaders ever get tired of being parrots of their moderated cherry-picked online content they’re free to visit Reason were I have seen very very little filtering. They apparently want to live in their own fantasy bubbles and frankly they have every right to short of other laws like fraudulent claims which should actually be handled by state law.

    1. If the left cheerleaders ever get tired of being parrots of their moderated cherry-picked online content they’re free to visit Reason were I have seen very very little filtering.

      And, mirabilis dictu, “very little filtering” means that Reason is going to continue to enjoy Section 230 protections, as is any web hosting company and cloud provider.

      The companies losing Section 230 protections are companies that filter, rank, prioritize, or otherwise select content based on criteria that result in political biases. Note that losing Section 230 protections just returns those companies to the same liability laws that any other publisher faces. How is that censorship?

      1. (sorry about the typo; you know which one I mean)

      2. “same liability laws that any other publisher faces. How is that censorship?”

        Liable for exactly what? Is the question.

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  20. What with the Political Kleptocracy being BI-partisan n’ such, I wonder who the Republicans and Democrats might agree needs censoring. Another bump like the last one would in 2020 yield the LP 13 million spoiler votes–3 million more than George Wallace Dixiecrats got before being absorbed root and planks by God’s Own Prohibitionists. Surely a way will be sought to (again) prevent THAT!

  21. As it currently stands, that rule shields social media companies from certain criminal and civil liabilities surrounding the millions of posts that third parties publish on their sites every day. Revoking those protections would not encourage the free flow of content online. It would hamper it, as moderators would inevitably move toward cracking down on any potentially defamatory post.

    Oh, my, the same rules for Google, Twitter, and Facebook as for everybody else! Whatever shall we do!

  22. Trump’s Social Media Executive Order Would Let Unelected Bureaucrats Police Online Speech

    When would an “unelected bureaucrat” ever make a determination on the legality of speech under the proposed changes?

    It would essentially be a Fairness Doctrine for the internet.

    Where do the proposed changes require fairness from anyone? All they require is that you decide whether you want to be a content-neutral provider (to receive immunity from content-based lawsuits), or whether you want to operate like every other publisher on the Internet or offline.

    But here’s a compromise: let’s just strike Section 230 completely. That way, no bureaucrats ever get involved in making any determinations about online publishers one way or another. Happy?

  23. This is the epitome of Trump Derangement Syndrome. For years, the media has railed about how important “Net Neutrality” is to keep a few powerful companies from being able to control discourse and access to the internet.

    Now, we see this in effect. A few powerful companies control the majority of discourse on the internet, and they have shown outright manipulation of discourse, to the point of actively manipulating political debates (Tulsi Gabbard’s experience being only one of many, but the most explicit and blatant recent example). However, when Trump essentially proposes Net Neutrality, tacitly admitting that his opponents were right, suddenly its the worst thing ever.

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