by Dagny Taggart, The Organic Prepper:
The White House reportedly has an Executive Order in the works that would put two government agencies in charge of regulating how Big Tech companies moderate and curate content on their platforms.
News of the EO follows months of increasingly angry complaints from conservatives about social media companies’ alleged bias against them. If you follow President Trump on Twitter, you have likely noticed that he has been engaged in a years-long virtual war with social media platforms over this alleged bias (even though Twitter has never banned him or removed any of his Tweets).
Politico was the first to report the existence of the draft EO:
The White House is circulating drafts of a proposed executive order that would address allegations of anti-conservative bias by social media companies, according to a White House official and two other people familiar with the matter — a month after President Donald Trump pledged to explore “all regulatory and legislative solutions” on the issue.
None of the three would describe the contents of the order, which one person cautioned has already taken many different forms and remains in flux. But its existence, and the deliberations surrounding it, are evidence that the administration is taking a serious look at wielding the federal government’s power against Silicon Valley. (source)
The White House official told Politico:
“If the internet is going to be presented as this egalitarian platform and most of Twitter is liberal cesspools of venom, then at least the president wants some fairness in the system. But look, we also think that social media plays a vital role. They have a vital role and an increasing responsibility to the culture that has helped make them so profitable and so prominent.” (source)
Once politicians start using words like “fairness” and “responsibility”, be wary.
Be very wary.
Why? Because the use of those terms usually means some kind of legislation that will likely not be “fair” is impending.
While many libertarians and conservatives believe (rightfully so) they are being censored in one way or another by platforms like Facebook and Twitter, it is important to understand that when the government starts to regulate things, we all ultimately pay the price. That’s because once the government starts meddling in private affairs, it does not stop there. More laws lead to more laws, and so on – it is a vicious cycle.
What kinds of penalties would companies face for alleged censorship? No one seems to know yet.
None of the three people Politico contacted could say what penalties (if any) would be imposed on companies deemed to be censoring political viewpoints. “The order, which deals with other topics besides tech bias, is still in the early drafting stages and is not expected to be issued imminently,” Politico reports.
“The President announced at this month’s social media summit that we were going to address this and the administration is exploring all policy solutions,” a second White House official said when asked about the draft order.
The agencies Trump wants to regulate platforms are not authorized to do so.
The draft EO calls for the FCC to develop new regulations clarifying how and when the law protects social media websites when they decide to remove or suppress content on their platforms. Although still in its early stages and subject to change, the draft EO also calls for the Federal Trade Commission to take those new policies into account when it investigates or files lawsuits against misbehaving companies.
However, the federal government’s options are limited by the First Amendment. And, a provision of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which both protects online platforms from liability for content their users post and empowers the companies to remove content without fear of liability, creates another obstacle. That provision, Section 230, has increasingly come under fire from lawmakers of both parties who are frustrated with tech companies’ content moderation practices.
Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act protects companies from legal responsibility for content posted on their platforms, like hate speech, violence, and graphic images. That’s why social media companies are generally allowed to moderate themselves as long as they’re operating in “good faith.”
But the new executive order would put all of that content moderation under the FCC’s purview, CNNreports. The government agency would be able to take away a company’s legal immunity if it removes or hides content without notifying the poster. The FCC can also strip the “good faith” immunity if it decides a company is acting unfairly or deceptively when hiding or removing content. (source)
The White House is crossing some serious lines with this Executive Order.
Back in May, the White House announced that it had created an online form where Americans can share instances in which they’ve been censored by social media platforms like Facebook and YouTube. The form, which is now closed to new submissions, asked users to share their contact information, social media links, their citizenship and residency status, and links or screenshots of any social media content they’ve posted that was censored by Facebook or its Instagram service, Twitter, or Google’s YouTube.