Trump’s love-hate relationship with Social Media
President Trump, who built his political career on the power of a flame-throwing Twitter account and whose election owed much to social media, has now gone to war with Twitter. The US President signed an executive order undermining platforms’ liability for their content, after Twitter called two of his tweets “potentially misleading”.
It has been one of the greatest love affairs in American politics.
Trump is one of the most popular, influential users on services including Facebook and Twitter, but he is also one of their most controversial, attacking critics and spreading falsehoods. Since joining Twitter more than a decade ago, from Twilight tweets to war declaration, Donald Trump has delivered 52,000 tweets or retweets and accumulated 80 million followers.
Twitter long resisted calls to discipline Trump but the company took a more aggressive approach at the end of May by factcheking his tweets about fraud election and restricting another about the Black Lives Matter protests for “glorifying violence”.
Following his threats to “close down” social media platforms, the President of the United States signed an executive order on May, 28th targeting tech companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Google.
The executive order aims to redefine a piece of law known as the Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Written in 1996, it gives tech companies broad immunity from civil lawsuits based on users post. As “platforms” (and not “publishers”), social medias can’t be held liable for the content posted by their users.
Trump’s executive order is likely unenforceable — but still important
Trump’s executive order is designed to pressure regulators, it’ll be up to two independent agencies – the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission – to determine how, exactly, Trump’s executive order will be implemented. Their response will largely determine the order’s scope and effect.
Like so much else from the Trump administration, it may turn out to be another order full of sound and fury that ultimately delivers nothing in the way of substantive change. Nevertheless, even if the order is ineffective, it represents a worrying belief that the President can twist and reinterpret even long‐settled law to fit his political agenda.
Sillicon Valley is dominated by people on the left and this frustrates conservatives. The order lets Trump show his supporters that’s he’s taking on liberals. Trump himself is framing his fight against Twitter as a culture war and his campaign is already fundraising off the fight.
“Twitter is interfering in the 2020 Election by attempting to SILENCE your President,” his campaign emailed supporters, accusing the “Fake News Media” of “working hand in hand with liberal platforms like Twitter to wrongly CENSOR conservative voices. We can’t let them get away with it,” the email continued before asking for donations.
This executive order could backfire on Trump himself
Without a liability shield, platforms would presumably would have to be more aggressive about policing posts. The logic of Trump’s order is intriguing because it attacks the very legal provision that has allowed him such latitude to publish with impunity a whole host of inflammatory, harassing and factually distorted messages.
If he succeeds in having the law changed, it would backfire on him because it would then make the social media platforms liable for his lies and his slanders. That, of course, is not the outcome Trump wants.
Asked if he had considered deleting his account, Trump replied:
If we had a fair press in this country, I would do that in a heartbeat. There’s nothing I’d rather do than get rid of my whole Twitter account.
The president’s threat to terminate his love-hate relationship with social media rings somewhat hollow.
Ultimately, this executive order pressures social media to think twice before editing Trump’s post. The companies will likely win any challenge, but no one wants to go through litigation. It becomes a cost-benefit analysis of, ‘Is it worth it to put a fact check the next time the president puts a false tweet out there?’”
Twitter addressed the order in a tweet on the same day it was signed.
This EO is 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 threaten the future of online speech and Internet freedoms.
— Twitter Public Policy (@Policy) May 29, 2020
And while Twitter Confronts Trump, facebook didn’t remove nor factcheck the same post published on their platform even though both companies have the same policy. After the whole Cambridge analytica fiasco benefiting trump’s election, Zuckerberg has been trying hard to keep his company “neutral” avoiding the political fray. The goal: keep lawmakers as far as possible from his company.