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Trump wants to trim Twitter’s wings

Ulcerated by the attitude of the famous blue bird towards him, the American president signed Thursday a decree aiming to limit the protection of social networks and the latitude they enjoy in moderating their content.

Ulcerated by the attitude of the famous blue bird towards him, the American president signed Thursday a decree aiming to limit the protection of social networks and the latitude they enjoy in moderating their content.

(AFP) – “We are here to defend freedom of expression in the face of one of the worst dangers,” the President said in the Oval Office, referring to what he called the “monopoly” of the groups technological. “They have the uncontrolled power to censor, edit, conceal or modify any form of communication between individuals and large public audiences”, he elaborated by signing the decree which should be the starting point of a long legal battle.

Very active on Twitter where he mixes, at a frantic pace, political announcements, personal attacks, conspiracy theories and campaign statements, the tenant of the White House denounces for a long time what he considers to be an ideological and political bias of the from the giants of Silicon Valley. Above all, he has not been fooling since his favorite network pinned two of his messages on Tuesday, adding the words: “Check the facts”. An increasingly common practice for deceptive or dangerous tweets, but a first for Donald Trump.

In the name of freedom of expression – and in retaliation, according to his critics – the tempestuous president has therefore decided to attack the famous Section 230 of the “Communications Decency Act”. The cornerstone of the American internet, it offers Facebook, Twitter or YouTube (Google) immunity from any legal action related to content published by third parties and gives them the freedom to intervene on platforms as they wish.

The decree seeks to modify the scope of this 1996 law and states that immunity cannot extend to those who practice “censorship from certain points of view”. “When powerful social networks censor opinions (…), they stop functioning as passive forums. They should be considered and treated as content creators, ā€states the text.

But for Democratic Senator Ron Wyden, Donald Trump mainly wants to “intimidate” social networks. He attacks Section 230 “because it protects the right of businesses not to have to harbor their lies,” he said. The decree constitutes “a flagrant and unconstitutional threat to punish platforms that displease the president,” says the NGO American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

Worthy of “autocracies”

Twitter declined to comment, but Matt Schruers, president of the Computer & Communications Industry Association, a tech lobby, said this kind of “retaliation” was more worthy of “foreign autocracies than of the United States.” ” The debate on the sacrosanct status of hosting online platforms has been raging for months and goes far beyond the dispute between Donald Trump and Twitter. On the left as on the right, voices have been raised for several years to force the networks to take more responsibility – and therefore to better filter the content.

Since the 2016 presidential manipulation attempts, Facebook and Twitter have invested massively in the fight against disinformation. The twitter network thus encouraged internet users to check the facts when Donald Trump said that postal voting was necessarily “fraudulent” because subject to manipulation. The question is particularly sensitive in the middle of an election year turned upside down by the coronavirus pandemic, which casts doubt on the methods of organizing the American presidential election on November 3.

Censorship in the name of … censorship?

Facebook founder and boss Mark Zuckerberg entered the battle by recalling on Fox News Thursday that in his opinion the platforms should not pose as “arbiter of the truth on everything that people say online”. But “a government that chooses to censor a platform because it is concerned about censorship does not seem to me to be exactly the right reflex,” he added. The decree method is also causing an uproar. “Whatever the circumstances, this is not how public policies are decided,” reacted the powerful US Chamber of Commerce. “A decree cannot be used to change federal law.”

Asked during the signing of the decree on the possibility of deleting his account, Donald Trump, who is followed by 80 million people on Twitter, responded with an attack on the media. “If we had an honest press in this country, I would do it in the second,” he said.


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