President Trump on Thursday signed an executive order that could open the door for the U.S. government to assume oversight of political speech on the Internet, a broadside against Silicon Valley that a wide array of critics derided as a threat to free speech.
Twitter called the order “a reactionary and politicized approach to a landmark law” and said attempts to weaken Section 230 would “threaten the future of online speech.”
This is all started when Twitter flagged a tweet from President Trump. Trump, who personally relies heavily on Twitter to verbally flog his foes, has long accused the tech giants in liberal-leaning Silicon Valley of targeting conservatives by fact-checking them or removing their posts.
Trump said the fact checks were “editorial decisions” by Twitter amounting to political activism and that such actions should cost social media companies their liability protection for what is posted on their platforms.
“We’re fed up with it,” Trump said, claiming his order would uphold freedom of speech. Technology industry groups disagreed, saying it would stifle innovation and speech on the internet. And the U.S. Chamber of Commerce objected, “Regardless of the circumstances that led up to this, this is not how public policy is made in the United States.”
Facebook spokeswoman Liz Bourgeois said in a statement that the company believes in protecting freedom of expression along with protecting users from harmful content.
Google spokeswoman Riva Sciuto said in a statement that undermining Section 230 could hurt the economy and the United States’ role in Internet freedom.
What is section 230
Often called the law that ‘created the Internet’.A law that is now more than 20 years old and that has helped define the way we all communicate on the Internet. It has been the subject of off-and-on controversy and has again been brought to the forefront of lawmakers.
Section 230 gives tech companies power over what is and is not allowed on their sites. It includes a wide range of Internet companies. Section 230 is a provision of the 1996 Communications Decency Act. It says that companies that operate online forums — everything from the billions of posts made on Facebook to restaurant reviews on Yelp to comment sections on Twitter — cannot be considered the publisher of all those posts that others put on their sites. And therefore the forum operators can’t be held liable for what others choose to share on their sites, even if those posts could break a law. In other words, it means that Facebook can’t be held legally responsible for a user putting up a post that defames any person.
In a tweet Thursday evening, Twitter said that the executive order was “a reactionary and politicized approach to a landmark law. #Section230 protects American innovation and freedom of expression, and it’s underpinned by democratic values. Attempts to unilaterally erode it threatens the future of online speech and Internet freedoms.”