Analysis Of The Social Media Executive Order

On Thursday, President Trump signed an executive order that challenges the safe harbour protections given to social media companies. As I am not American nor a lawyer I asked YouTuber (host of Lawful Masses) and copyright lawyer Leonard French his opinion. Here’s what he said:

It basically does nothing except order a nearly-meaningless review of social media platforms by the NTIA, FCC, FTC, and Attorney General. The strongest thing it does is attempt to remove advertising dollars that the Federal gov’t may have been spending on unnamed social media platforms that “violate free speech”.

The worst consequence from that may be that some disaffected social media company (hypothetically, Twitter) might have to sue to establish whether they can lose Federal gov’t ad dollars under this Order. Twitter has Due-Process rights too and needs notice and fair adjudication on losing a contract (if there even is one).

Twitter and other social media are private companies, private actors, who have terms of use/service with their users. Those contracts govern first, and free speech isn’t a part of it. Twitter absolutely has a right to put fact-checking info next to tweets/posts about sensitive topics, such as voter-fraud here. Twitter is allowed to display user’s posts or not display them, or censor them, as they see fit, and the thing that governs is the agreement between you and Twitter.

Twitter responding to the President’s speech with their own speech is quintessential free speech under the 1st amendment. The Bill of Rights is there to protect people from the government, not the other way around.

CDA section 230 grants immunity to Twitter for Trump’s posts. There is no more to it. There is no violation by putting fact-checking links next to it. So this Executive Order seems like an overreach, attempting to go beyond what the law allows – but you can see in the document how the author realizes they only have so much power – so they stop short of further regulating speech and instead just ask for a couple of reviews after two pages of propaganda.

As Leonard wrote most of this here’s how you can support him:

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