President Donald Trumpsigned an executive order Thursday that could weaken legal protections for social media companies, days after Twitter labeled two of his misleading missives with a fact-check addendum.
The move, which may expose social media companies to liability for what gets posted on their platforms, dramatically escalates a confrontation between Trump and his favored mode of communication, where the president can address his more than 80 million followers directly without relying on news conferences or the traditional media.
Trump and his backers claimed Twitter was suppressing free speech by labeling his tweets, which falsely claimed mail-in ballots would be “substantially fraudulent.” The president typically uses the platform to brag, attack rivals, bolster allies and spread falsehoods.
It wasn’t immediately clear how, if at all, the order can be enforced. The president cannot regulate tech companies without congressional approval and any challenge to their autonomy is sure to end up in court.
“Much as he might wish otherwise, Donald Trump is not the president of Twitter. This order, if issued, would be a blatant and unconstitutional threat to punish social media companies that displease the president,” the American Civil Liberties Union noted on Twitter.
“The president has no authority to rewrite a congressional statute with an executive order imposing a flawed interpretation of Section 230,” the ACLU continued, referring to the section of the Communications Decency Act that shields platforms from being held liable for what users publish on them.
“Ironically, Donald Trump is a big beneficiary of Section 230,” the legal nonprofit continued. “If platforms were not immune under the law, then they would not risk the legal liability that could come with hosting Trump’s lies, defamation, and threats.”
Social media companies have enjoyed legal protections for what gets posted on their platforms and have resisted...