President Donald Trump signed an executive order Thursday in the White House to defend free speech on social media and regulate social media companies for selectively censoring users.
“We’re here today to defend free speech from one of the greatest dangers,” the president said, referring to the “unchecked power” wielded by social media companies in the United States.
The president signed the order in the Oval Office on Thursday afternoon.
“They’ve had unchecked power to censor restrict, edit shape hide alter virtually any form of communication between private citizens or large public audiences,” Trump said.
The president criticized the growing monopoly of social media companies in America, vowing to act to change the regulatory framework for the companies.
“There’s no precedent in American history for so small a number of corporations to control so large a sphere of interaction,” he said.
Trump said the increasing editorial actions by social media to control the content on their platforms endangered their liability shield under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act as a neutral public platform.
“The choices that Twitter makes, when it chooses to suppress, edit, blacklist, shadowban are editorial decisions, pure and simple, they are editorial decisions,” Trump said.
The president accused the companies of political activism, calling it “inappropriate.”
“What they choose to fact check and what they choose to ignore or promote is nothing more than a political activism group,” he said.
Trump said that social media companies had “more power and more reach” than any phone company or newspaper or media outlet, and needed more regulation.
U.S. Attorney General William Barr attended the event and said his office would prepare legislation to restrict social media companies from pressing their particular viewpoints on their platforms.
“These companies grew because they held themselves out as public forums,” Barr said, adding, “Now that they’ve become these very powerful networks of eyeballs. They’ve now switched and they are using that market power to force particular viewpoints.”
The president also noted that checking social media companies had become a bipartisan issue, citing Democrat support for regulation.
When ABC News reporter Jon Karl asked why President Trump did not delete his Twitter account in protest of the company’s decisions, Trump replied, “If you weren’t fake, I would not even think about it, I would do that in a heartbeat”.