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Trump Threatens to Shut Down Twitter

Yesterday I reported Trump Threatens to Shut Down Twitter.

The threat came after Twitter inserted a "Get the Facts" link on mail-in voting at the end of a pair of Trump Tweets.

For details, please see Twitter Corrects a Trump Tweet With an Addendum

Executive Order Removing Twitter's Liability Shield

Today, Trump admitted he has no means to shut down Twitter, but he did issue an executive order regarding social media outlets.

Specifically, Trump removed liability protections for social-media companies.

"Currently social media companies like Twitter receive an unprecedented liability shield based on the theory they are a neutral platform, which they are not, [They are] an editor with a viewpoint.

"My executive order calls for new regulations under section 230 of the Communications Decency Act to make it that social media companies that engage in censoring or any political conduct will not be able to keep their liability shield. That's a big deal"

The 1996 Communications Decency Act gives online companies broad immunity from liability for their users’ actions, as well as wide latitude to police content on their sites.

It is highly doubtful that Trump can legally amend that legislation with an executive order.

Social Media Fight

The Wall Street Journal has some interesting comments. 

The president has threatened for years to counteract what he and many conservatives see as a systemic bias against their political positions on social media. His campaign on Thursday sent supporters an email seeking to raise money off the president’s feud with Twitter.

The order will likely be challenged in court, experts said, on grounds that it oversteps the government’s authority in restricting the platforms’ legal protections, which federal courts have interpreted broadly. It also could be challenged on grounds that it violates their First Amendment protections.

Daphne Keller, a former associate general counsel at Google who is now director of the Program on Platform Regulation at Stanford University’s Cyber Policy Center, said the White House order is largely rhetoric without legal foundation

Both Sides

Keller noted the bind huge social media site are in.

“They get it from both sides: Powerful voices demand that they take down more speech, and other powerful voices demand that they take down less. There is no way for them to win, since no one will ever agree on what the exact right speech policies would be,” said Keller.

Do Everyone a Favor

Much Ado About Nothing

This morning at 7:16 AM before we saw Trump's action or the WSJ discussion, a legal scholar friend of mine, sent me his point of view, as follows.

Today’s executive order will look at Section 230 but it will be meaningless.

Statements about public figures are not actionable except for things such as purposeful libel.

This is much ado about nothing, like most of what Trump does. 

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Fox News Media Irony

As Trump complains about the media bias of Twitter, can someone please explain how Fox News is not an "editor with a viewpoint" on a biased platform to boot?

Twitter Irony

Trump's action will be challenged in court and he will lose. 

However, losing is just what Trump wants so he can scream and howl more about Twitter, on Twitter, while praising that bastion of alleged "fair and balanced" neutrality known as Fox News.

Please Name a Major Unbiased News Source

In case you have not figured it out, no news sources are truly neutral, and everyone has a viewpoint or agenda.

The Choice

We have a choice. We can put up with Social Media Sites like Twitter and Facebook as well as news sites like Fox News and the Washington Post, etc., or we can tune them out. 

Unfortunately, the vast majority of people seek out places likely to say what they want to hear or places or celebrities with which they can constantly argue. 

Trump has 80.4 million followers on Twitter. How many people follow Trump because they despise him?


Reader Bill offers these pertinent thoughts:

The conflation with Fox News makes no sense. Fox News is a publisher and makes no attempt to claim Section 230 protection. By contrast, Twitter is not a "news source", they literally create nothing themselves, they are a conduit for those who do.

Section 230 is genuinely smart legislation (normally an oxymoron). It doesn't just protect huge players like Facebook or Twitter, but anyone who permits user contributions, including Maven and, yes, Mish himself. As others point out, those who want to blithely do away with it because "Twitter is picking on my tribe" should be careful what they wish for.

I was simply attempting to point out there are no unbiased sources, even including this one. We all have biases. And I do delete offensive comments as well, but I do not tag them with a correction flag as Twitter just did.

The essence of Bill's comment is accurate: "Those who want to blithely do away with it [Section 230] because 'Twitter is picking on my tribe' should be careful what they wish for."

Addendum 2

My legal expert just pinged me with this comment: "If Twitter is liable for Trump lies, they won’t publish them, killing his twittering. Trump must know this isn't going anywhere."

Legislation along the lines of what Trump appears to want would open up a can of worms as to who gets to decide what is or isn't a lie. 

This is exactly what reader Bill warned about above.