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Trump Seeks Control Of Twitter, Facebook, Others

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…..Signs Executive Order To Dilute Legal Protections For Social Media Platforms

President Donald Trump signed an executive order targeting social media companies on Thursday, days after Twitter called two of his tweets “potentially misleading.”

But he didn’t follow through his threat to shut Twitter.

Speaking from the Oval Office ahead of signing the order, Trump said the move was to “defend free speech from one of the gravest dangers it has faced in American history.”

“The order could open Twitter, Facebook, and Google up to lawsuits by diluting the legal protection which stops them from being liable for posts on their platforms, and which also allows them to moderate content”, the Daily Mail reported.

Trump descended on social media after Twitter slapped two of the President’s tweets on mail-in- ballots with a ‘fact check’ on Tuesday.

The U.S. President hit back by saying he would regulate and even shut down the Silicon Valley giants if they are shown to be biased.

He accused Twitter of becoming an ‘editor with a point of view’ and not a ‘neutral platform’ by fact-checking him and then slammed one of its executives, Yoel Roth, its head of user integrity, accusing him of ‘fraud’ for the fact check. Twitter says he was not involved in it.

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Asked if he wanted to get rid of Twitter he said: ‘If it was legal if it was able to be legally shut down, I would.’

Trump signed the executive order on ‘fairness’ as his attorney-general Bill Barr looked on.

‘We’re here today to defend free speech from one of the greatest dangers it has faced in American history, frankly, and you know what’s going on as well as anybody.

“It’s not good,’ Trump said before inking the order.

“‘A small handful of powerful social media monopolies controls a vast portion of all public and private communication in the United States and we know what they are, we don’t have to name them, we’re going to give you a complete listing.’

‘They’ve had unchecked power to censure, restrict, edit, shape, hide, alter virtually any form of communication between private citizens or large public audiences,’ he said.

Trump also tried to use the power of federal purse strings as pressure, saying we ‘are not going in any social media company that repress[es] free speech.’

He said the government spends ‘billions of dollars on giving them money’ and called the firms ‘rich enough,’ although independent accounts put the total government ad spending far lower.

‘We’re going to be doing none of it or very little of it,’ Trump said.

Asked if he would consider simply deleting his Twitter account given his concerns, Trump said he would ‘do that in a heartbeat’ if we had a ‘fair press’ in the U.S.

Meanwhile, a draft of the order, which was reviewed by CNN, targets a law known as the Communications Decency Act. Section 230 of the legislation provides broad immunity to websites that curate and moderate their own platforms, and has been described by legal experts as “the 26 words that created the internet.”

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It argues that the protections hinge mainly on tech platforms operating in “good faith,” and that social media companies have not.

“In a country that has long cherished the freedom of expression, we cannot allow a limited number of online platforms to hand-pick the speech that Americans may access and convey online,” the draft order says. “This practice is fundamentally un-American and anti-democratic. When large, powerful social media companies censor opinions with which they disagree, they exercise a dangerous power.”

On Tuesday, Twitter applied a fact-check to two of Trump’s tweets, including one that claimed, without evidence, that mail-in ballots would lead to widespread voter fraud. Trump immediately shot back, accusing the social media giant of censorship and warning that if it continued to offer addendums to his messages, he would use the power of the federal government to rein it in or even shut it down.

The draft order also accuses social media platforms of “invoking inconsistent, irrational, and groundless justifications to censor or otherwise punish Americans’ speech here at home.” It also faults Google for helping the Chinese government surveil its citizens; Twitter for spreading Chinese propaganda; and Facebook for profiting from Chinese advertising.

Facebook, Google and Twitter declined to comment.

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