A leaked draft of Donald Trump’s “Censor the Internet” executive order that would give federal agencies far-reaching power to decide which internet material is or is not acceptable is being called a “threat to online freedoms and First Amendment rights” by civil liberties groups.
CNN obtained a copy of the draft. The new rule “calls for the FCC to develop new regulations clarifying how and when the law protects social media websites when they decide to remove or suppress content on their platforms. Although still in its early stages and subject to change, the Trump administration’s draft order also calls for the Federal Trade Commission to take those new policies into account when it investigates or files lawsuits against misbehaving companies.”
CNN reports that “the order would reflect a significant escalation by President Trump in his frequent attacks against social media companies over an alleged but unproven systemic bias against conservatives by technology platforms. And it could lead to a significant reinterpretation of a law that, its authors have insisted, was meant to give tech companies broad freedom to handle content as they see fit.”
Since the draft was leaked advocacy groups have raised alarms about the orders far-reaching implications.
“It’s hard to put into words how mind-bogglingly absurd this executive order is,” said Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future, in a tweet. “In the name of defending free speech, it would allow mass government censorship of online content. In practice, it means whichever party is in power can decide what speech is allowed on the internet.”
The advocacy group PEN America, which defends the free expression for writers, journalists warned that any “executive order based on this draft rule would be an unconstitutional anti-American edict.”
Trump’s executive order would mean that whatever political party is in power can dictate what speech is allowed on the internet. If the government doesn’t like the way a private company moderates its site it would then have the power to shut it down.
“These leaks about a potential Executive Order from the White House are troubling on many levels, from the order’s potential to violate the First Amendment, to its apparent disregard for the independence of agencies like the FCC and the FTC, to its intent to unilaterally limit Section 230 which promotes moderated online communities free of hate speech and misinformation,” said Chris Lewis, president and CEO of Public Knowledge.
“If these reports are a trial balloon from the White House,” Lewis added, “then it’s time to pop it.”