The President, Trump has passed from words to facts: the number one in the White House has signed on in the last few hours an executive order aimed at intervening in the activities of the social platforms. The measure intervenes at a short distance from the controversy triggered by the choice of Twitter to label as false the statements of Trump on voting by mail.
Trump does not mince words: the decision was taken to defend the freedom of the word from one of the most serious dangers he had to face in american history. The President makes reference to a small group of monopolistic social media that has the ability to control a large part of public and private communications in the United States:
(social media) have had the uncontrolled power to censor, limit, modify, model, hide, and alter virtually any form of communication between private citizens and a wide audience
The goal of Trump is to reduce the power of the most important social media platforms by modifying the federal law of 1996, which protects web sites and technology companies from liability for content posted by users, granting him a sort of immunity. In concrete terms, it decides to submit to the social media on the controls tightened by the FCC and the FTC.
The law in question is section 230 of the Communications Decency Act:
No provider of an interactive computer service may be treated as the publisher or author of any information that has been provided by a third party
The legislation provides however the possibility of intervention by the operators of the platforms to moderate and delete content that violate the terms of service. Until now, these subjects could not justify their actions by claiming to have acted in good faith.
According to the decree of the President of the authority shall consider whether giants such as Twitter, Facebook and Google to suppress freedom of expression by suspending users, flagging, and deleting their comments.
According to the new scheme, the Department of Trade asks the Federal Communication Commission’s new rules to specify when the operators of the platforms are acting in bad faith, and accordingly, when the user can contest the deletion or limitation of its back If there is bad faith, would be also less than the immunity provided by section 230.
The measure also provides for a working group formed by the attorneys general of the State, coordinated by the Department of Justice, which have the task to assess the actual existence of a prejudice of social media against the conservatives. And still: there is the prohibition for federal agencies to carry out investment in advertising on the platforms that they have violated the principle of good faith of section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
Trump also calls into question the Federal Trade Commission that would have the task of reporting on complaints related to the prejudices of politicians and take into account the possibility of bring a cause of action against persons who violate section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, as reinterpreted by the new regulatory interventions.
The first reactions have come from the jurists, which highlight how the executive order may be unconstitutional for the violation of the first amendment, both because it was adopted in fact by bypassing the Congress. There is also to remember the role of the FTC and the FCC and the quality of independent authorities have the discretion to comply or not to the order of the president. Do not miss the first responses of the subjects directly involved:
Andy Stone, a spokesman for Facebook:
Expose the companies to potential liability for everything that they say billions of people around the world would penalize those who choose to allow discourses controversial and would bring the platforms to censor anything that might offend anyone
Riva Sciuto, Google:
Our platforms have strengthened a large group of people and organizations of each political party, giving them a voice and new ways to reach their audience
The executive order of Trump is a conservative approach and politicized to an historical law