President’s Executive Order on Online Censorship Is More Bluster Than Action but Should Be Taken Seriously, Says ITIF; This Signals Inappropriate Use of Power

May 28, 2020

WASHINGTON—In response to President Trump's executive order on online censorship after calling for strongly regulating or closing down social media platforms, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) issued the following statement Thursday from ITIF Vice President Daniel Castro:

The executive order is more bluster than action, but that does not mean it should not be taken seriously. Twitter has taken reasonable actions to moderate content on its platform in line with its public terms of service. The president has made clear he disagrees with a recent decision to fact check one of his posts, and in response, he has begun to weaponize federal and state law enforcement and regulatory agencies to retaliate against an American company. 

Specifically, the order directs federal agencies to ignore judicial precedent and cut online ad spending with certain social media platforms. This is an inappropriate use of the powers of the presidency and opens the door to legitimize similar actions by other political leaders around the world. The long-term impact of such retaliatory policies would be a chilling of free speech online, especially counter-speech, a rise in disinformation, and a decline in innovative social media platforms.

There are legitimate questions about how to ensure content moderation is fair and reasonable, respond to the threat of disinformation, and strike the right balance with platform liability, however, this should be pursued through a thoughtful and open and democratic forum, such as Congress, not through an ill-conceived executive order provoked by a moment of pique.

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