A draft of Donald Trump’s executive order on social media leaked on Thursday, which marks a new chapter in the president’s battle against purported bias against conservatives on digital platforms. Not long after the release of the draft, right-wing commentator Ben Shapiro took to Twitter to reveal his thoughts on its implications for the conservative movement.
The draft reveals that Trump wants to reexamine Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA), which places liability on internet companies for the content posted on their platforms. According to Shapiro, who has been critical of Trump in the past, scrapping this part of the act is unrealistic and would have broad implications for internet content as a whole.
“Here’s the inevitable effect of destroying §230 of the CDA: all comments sections will be taken down. No website has the resources to actively edit all comments in order to shield themselves from liability, and no website is willing to leave comments entirely standards-free.”
In particular, Shapiro suggests that redefining “unfair business practices” to include “comment-policing-based lawsuits” will ultimately backfire on conservatives.
“I see the appeal, but I’m wondering just why conservatives are suddenly so unconcerned about political bias among regulators.”
Shapiro, who is a former attorney, is not the only one skeptical about the order. As reported by USA Today, Kate Klonick, assistant professor at St. John’s Law School, called the draft a “mix of political bluster” and provisions that will likely be unenforceable.
Per USA Today, Trump’s administration does not have the power to change federal regulations without the action of independent agencies like the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the Federal Trade Commission, and the United States legal system. According to the publication, the executive order would likely be challenged in court.
Although the order appeared to be triggered by Twitter’s recent fact-checking procedures — which targeted one of Trump’s tweets about alleged fraud linked to vote-by-mail — the order does not address them specifically.
According to CNN, some of the provisions in the order are within Trump’s power, including those that harness the powers of federal agencies. Others, such as new rules for content regulation, could violate the First Amendment. Robert McDowell, a former Republican commissioner at the FCC, noted that Facebook and Twitter are private companies protected from government infringement in the same way as individuals.
Democratic FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel echoed McDowell’s concerns and pushed back against what she perceived as the weaponization of the FCC for Trump’s political battles.
“It’s time for those in Washington to speak up for the First Amendment. History won’t be kind to silence,” she said.