US president Donald Trump has this evening signed an executive order designed to weaken the legal protections around social media companies.
The move comes after the president became embroiled in a dispute with Twitter, which marked one of his tweets with a fact check warning over its inaccurate claims.
The president said that the order would attempt to “remove or change” section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects platforms from content posted on it by users.
He added that attorney general William Barr would pursue legislation to regulate social media companies.
The president’s remarks and the order, as drafted, seem to try to circumvent Congress and the courts in directing changes to long-established interpretations of Section 230.
Legal experts said that the challenge was unlikely to stand up to scrutiny.
“In terms of presidential efforts to limit critical commentary about themselves, I think one would have to go back to the Sedition Act of 1798 – which made it illegal to say false things about the president and certain other public officials – to find an attack supposedly rooted in law by a president on any entity which comments or prints comments about public issues and public people,” said First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams.
Neither Twitter or Facebook immediately commented on the decision.
Trump yesterday threatened to shut down social media platforms, complaining they were silencing conservative voices in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election.
“We will strongly regulate, or close them down, before we can ever allow this to happen,” he wrote in a tweet.