On Thursday, President Donald Trump signed an executive order targeting Twitter and other social media giants, saying he is taking action to “defend free speech from one of the gravest dangers it has faced in American history,” after Twitter called two of his tweets potentially misleading.
The President was critical of mail-in-voting in a series of tweets, claiming that the system has potential for voter fraud. Twitter chose to “fact-check” the tweets and called them “potentially misleading,” linking to articles from the Washington Post, CNN, and NBC. One of the issues raised with Twitter’s “fact-check” is that President Trump’s tweets were predictive of future events, something that can’t actually be fact-checked until the event has occurred.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton strongly disagreed with Twitter and those media outlets’ assessment. In an opinion piece written for Fox News, Paxton claimed about two-thirds of voter fraud cases prosecuted by his office involved some form of mail-ballot fraud. Paxton cited a case in which one man forged 1,200 mail-in ballot applications resulting in 700 suspected fraudulent votes in a 2017 Dallas election.
President Trump said the order allows for new regulations so that social media companies “that engage in censoring or any political conduct will not be able to keep their liability shield.” The President continued,
“They have had unchecked power to censor, restrict, edit, shape, hide, alter any form of communication between private citizens or large public audiences. We are fed up with it.”
He said what social media giants choose to fact check or ignore are editorial decisions and represent political activism.
The order calls for new regulations under Section 320 of the Communications Decency Act, which provides broad immunity from lawsuits to websites based on the content its user’s post, and thus curbs some of that liability protection for companies like Twitter, Facebook, and Google. However, experts say it is likely up to Congress, not the executive branch, to reinterpret the part of the law in question and that it may also raise significant First Amendment questions and face legal challenges.