The fact that US President Donald Trump occasionally concocts conspiracy theories is no longer new. But now he goes a step further than usual. Trump is upset that Twitter has a warning with one fact check has posted to one of his tweets, and has now issued a decree that could seriously limit the (limited) legal immunity of social media.
Donald Trump is angry. On Twitter. And he has already made that clear in recent days. On Twitter. But now his fight against the social network site goes a step further. Indeed, Trump has enacted a presidential decree to limit the protection of social media.
Platforms, not publishers
According to a piece of American law (the Communications Decency Act), tech companies have legal immunity. In concrete terms, this means that companies such as Twitter will very rarely appear in court for something that someone else has written there.
This is because, to our knowledge, social media are not “publishers”, but “platforms”. And that is to say that social media cannot (and should not) control what is published there. That would go against the right to free speech.
The new decree (officially one executive order) puts pressure on that legal immunity. And that is welcome news for people who believe that social media should be treated in the same way as other media. But the decree also has many opponents.
Indeed, a presidential decree is a directive that should not be approved by the United States Congress. And that creates problems, because the decree contradicts an existing law (which Communication Decency Act).
And according to the American system, a law cannot be “undone” by the president. This is because Congress is needed. Another argument by opponents of the decree is the curtailment of the right to free speech.
If that social media immunity is limited, network sites like Twitter and Facebook are likely to filter much more. They will be seen as responsible, so they will control what appears and who writes it much more.
And that may well be negative for Donald Trump. Because the American president sometimes dares to write something that is not entirely correct. That’s even the cause of this whole saga.
Voting by mail
President Trump had tweeted that voting by mail would become a breeding ground for fraud. The reason for his statements? The state of California has sent ballot papers to every resident, including “people who have never voted and are unlikely to vote.”
In this way, the 2020 presidential elections would be no less than “manipulated elections”. What the POTUS had not thought about was that his information was not entirely correct. In California, voting requests were simply sent. People who want votes by post, can therefore request their ballot paper.
And Twitter pointed this out to the US President with a warning and a link to “the facts about voting by mail”. Trump thought that was not possible, and expressed his displeasure … on Twitter.