45th President of the United States Donald Trump has signed an executive order on “Preventing Online Censorship,” after Twitter marked one of his tweets as deceptive.
On May 26th, President Trump expressed his concerns that mail-in ballots would be subject to fraud in a pair of tweets.
“There is NO WAY (ZERO!) that Mail-In Ballots will be anything less than substantially fraudulent. Mail boxes will be robbed, ballots will be forged & even illegally printed out & fraudulently signed. The Governor of California is sending Ballots to millions of people, anyone…..
….living in the state, no matter who they are or how they got there, will get one. That will be followed up with professionals telling all of these people, many of whom have never even thought of voting before, how, and for whom, to vote. This will be a Rigged Election. No way!”
Both of these tweets were marked with “Get the facts about mail-in ballots.” This seems to be Twitter’s way of marking “harmfully misleading” tweets, from a test-build that was leaked back in February.
The link lead to this page, stating the following.
“Trump makes unsubstantiated claim that mail-in ballots will lead to voter fraud
On Tuesday, President Trump made a series of claims about potential voter fraud after California Governor Gavin Newsom announced an effort to expand mail-in voting in California during the COVID-19 pandemic. These claims are unsubstantiated, according to CNN, Washington Post and others. Experts say mail-in ballots are very rarely linked to voter fraud.”
The feed of tweets underneath then included tweets from those disagreeing with the President, along with the aforementioned news agencies.
President Trump, along with his supporters and critics, have criticized many American news organizations as being biased against Republicans (and in favor of Democrats).
The President then blasted back on May 27th, claiming Twitter was now interfering with the upcoming 2020 US election.
is now interfering in the 2020 Presidential Election. They are saying my statement on Mail-In Ballots, which will lead to massive corruption and fraud, is incorrect, based on fact-checking by Fake News CNN and the Amazon Washington Post….
….Twitter is completely stifling FREE SPEECH, and I, as President, will not allow it to happen!”
From the 27th to 28th, President Trump (among his other tweets) would continue to deride Twitter for their actions [1, 2, 3, 4] stating that Republicans felt censored on social media platforms, and that Twitter was biased- including Yoel Roth, Twitter’s Head of Site Integrity.
In now deleted tweets, Roth claimed that there were “ACTUAL NAZIS IN THE WHITE HOUSE” and “I’m just saying, we fly over those states that voted for a racist tangerine for a reason.”
Other social media platforms have also been accused of having an anti-republican or anti-conservative bias. YouTube updated their terms (trigger an “adpocalypse“) after political commentator Steven Crowder mocked and derided Vox writer Carlos Maza in several videos.
Maza had previously allegedly encouraged his Twitter followers to assault perceived right-wing supporters and prevent them from gathering at public events. “Milkshake them all. Humiliate them at every turn. Make them dread public organizing.”
Maza felt YouTube’s initial action was insufficient (saying the video did not violate their policies, but they did not endorse it), claiming that YouTube was “dominated by Alt-Right monsters who use the platform to target their critics and make their lives miserable.”
After this YouTube updated their terms on hate speech (though some claim the update had been in the works for a while). In the wake of the new rules, there are claims of many accounts being demonetized with allegedly “thousands of channels under review.” Many non-political channels and non-hateful content were also allegedly affected.
Returning to President Trump’s tweets, Twitter co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey publicly responded to President Trump’s new allegations on the 28th.
“Fact check: there is someone ultimately accountable for our actions as a company, and that’s me. Please leave our employees out of this. We’ll continue to point out incorrect or disputed information about elections globally. And we will admit to and own any mistakes we make.
This does not make us an ‘arbiter of truth.’ Our intention is to connect the dots of conflicting statements and show the information in dispute so people can judge for themselves. More transparency from us is critical so folks can clearly see the why behind our actions.
Per our Civic Integrity policy (https://help.twitter.com/en/rules-and-policies/election-integrity-policy), the tweets yesterday may mislead people into thinking they don’t need to register to get a ballot (only registered voters receive ballots). We’re updating the link on @realDonaldTrump’s tweet to make this more clear.”
Shortly afterwards, the Twitter Safety account tweeted words to a similar effect.
Nonetheless, President Trump tweeted again, standing firm that Twitter were lying about mail-In ballots.
“So ridiculous to see Twitter trying to make the case that Mail-In Ballots are not subject to FRAUD. How stupid, there are examples, & cases, all over the place. Our election process will become badly tainted & a laughingstock all over the World. Tell that to your hater @yoyoel”
Now, on May 28th, President Trump has signed an executive order. In summation, President Trump ascertains that social media (on platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube) are the modern “public square.”
President Trump also claims that “Online platforms are engaging in selective censorship that is harming our national discourse.” He references Twitters alleged political bias, content being flagged despite not violating a TOS, along with tweets regarding the “long-disproved Russian Collusion Hoax” not being flagged by Twitter.
Next, President Trump alluded to “several online platforms are profiting from and promoting the aggression and disinformation spread by foreign governments like China.”
He accused one unnamed US company was creating a search engine for the Chinese government, that would have “blacklisted searches for “human rights,” hid data unfavorable to the Chinese Communist Party, and tracked users determined appropriate for surveillance.” Google had terminated plans for a search engine in China that would be censored as per government regulations (called Dragonfly) after public outcry.
Recently, YouTube stated “an error“ caused comments posting 五毛 (“Wu Mao”, the Chinese Government’s “50 Cent Party” acting as hired commenters and trolls) and 共匪 (“Communist Bandit) were being automatically deleted.
President Trump also accused unnamed companies of “accepted advertisements paid for by the Chinese government” which spread false information on behalf of the Chinese government (such as their mass imprisonment of religious minorities), and allowing Chinese officials to “spread misinformation regarding the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, and to undermine pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.”
To achieve protection of free speech on social media platforms, the new executive order demands (in summation) that Section 230(c) of the Communications Decency Act (immunity from liability for social media platforms) should be clarified.
The exception will no longer apply to a platform that uses “their power over a vital means of communication to engage in deceptive or pretextual actions stifling free and open debate by censoring certain viewpoints.”
Rather, Section 230(c) should continue to be used for its true purpose, to protect those engaging in “‘Good Samaritan’ blocking” of “harmful content.” This is content that is “obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing or otherwise objectionable.”
Further, “Federal spending on advertising and marketing paid to online platforms” shall be reviewed. The results of the review will then be compared with the Department of Justice’ own review on the platforms and “assess whether any online platforms are problematic vehicles for government speech due to viewpoint discrimination, deception to consumers, or other bad practices.”
Using the White House Tech Bias Reporting tool launched in May 2019, the complaints will be submitted to the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commision (FTC). Then, “The FTC shall consider taking action, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, to prohibit unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce.”
“For large online platforms that are vast arenas for public debate,” including Twitter, the FTC will then consider if the complaints point to violation of the law. “The FTC shall consider developing a report describing such complaints and making the report publicly available, consistent with applicable law.”
The executive order also demands a “State Review of Unfair or Deceptive Acts or Practices and Anti-Discrimination Law.” With this, the Attorney General (currently William P. Barr) will “establish a working group regarding the potential enforcement of State statutes that prohibit online platforms from engaging in unfair or deceptive acts or practices.”
This group will also develop the model for legislation for States where existing statues “do not protect Americans from such unfair and deceptive acts and practices.” Combined with information from the aforementioned complains and their own research, the group will collect information on the following:
“(i) increased scrutiny of users based on the other users they choose to follow, or their interactions with other users;
(ii) algorithms to suppress content or users based on indications of political alignment or viewpoint;
(iii) differential policies allowing for otherwise impermissible behavior, when committed by accounts associated with the Chinese Communist Party or other anti-democratic associations or governments;
(iv) reliance on third-party entities, including contractors, media organizations, and individuals, with indicia of bias to review content; and
(v) acts that limit the ability of users with particular viewpoints to earn money on the platform compared with other users similarly situated.”
This will then lead to Federal legislation to promote the policy objectives.
Before signing the order, President Trump stated that social media companies “had unchecked power to censor, restrict, edit, shape, hide, alter virtually any form of communication between private citizens or large public audiences.”
President Trump also stated that Twitter and more became editors once they would censor a political view point, and would no longer a neutral platform. He also said their actions were “tantamount to a monopoly.”
As such, the executive order would remove the “liability shield” for social media platforms that censor. President Trump also stated “quite a few Democrats” had said something needed to be done. “Let’s see if they keep that decision after they hear we agree with them.”
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