NewsMobile Explainer: Donald Trump’s Executive Order on regulating Social Media

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US President Donald Trump (File Image)

As matters escalated between micro-blogging site Twitter and U.S President Donald Trump—with the former calling two of Trump’s tweets as “potentially misleading”—the latter signed an executive order targeting social media companies saying that the move was to defend free speech from one of the gravest dangers it has faced in American history.

NewsMobile explores what exactly is this order and the concept of an “executive order”.

Background

On Wednesday, President Trump had tweeted his disapproval of mail-in balloting system. He went as far as calling this method a method to rig the elections.

This and another tweet were immediately fact checked by Twitter.

This led Trump to lash out at Twitter and he accused them of having a political bias.

On Thursday, he threatened that he will sign an executive order to regulate social media agencies in the US.

In a matter of few hours, this executive order was signed by Trump.

What does this order do?

The order modifies Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. According to this provision, tech companies broadly enjoy immunity from civil law suits in the US because they are treated as mere platforms and not as publishers.

It also protects “freedom of speech and expression” in the US.

This order by Trump simply waives this immunity.

Henceforth, these companies can be sued like normal corporations and will be considered to be juristic personalities.

It also directs the federal agencies to reduce the advertisements on social media sites.

What does this mean for Twitter and other social media companies?

Firstly, they cannot claim immunity from legal proceedings for being mere ‘platforms’. They will have to provide for inbuilt mechanisms to appear truly neutral. Otherwise, they can be prosecuted as per the law.

Secondly, Trump and his followers have the option of migrating to other platforms and leave Twitter. This may be a huge loss for them.

Lastly, the first two consequences can impact their revenue models.

Why did Trump sign an Executive order and not go through the Legislative route?

Normally speaking in a democracy, there is a clear division of power between the three organs of the government: Legislature, Executive and Judiciary.

Simply put, the Legislature frames the law, the Executive implements it and the Judiciary interprets the laws.

However, in some cases, the Executive is empowered to frame bylaws and other procedures bypassing the Legislature. This process is called delegated legislation.

In many cases, this will need to be ratified by the legislature.

Trump’s Executive order may very well be subjected to judicial review and he has expressed his confidence that things will sail through.

What are some of the other high-profile Executive orders of Trump?

Here are some of the noteworthy Executive Orders issued by Trump include:

Protecting the nation from Foreign terrorist entry into the United States- this order banned the entry of all refugees and individuals from certain Islamic nations such as Iran, Afghanistan and Somalia amongst others. This order was later struck down in 2017 by the judiciary.

Buy American Hire American- This once again penalized companies who brought in foreign workers and didn’t hire Americans in the various sectors of the economy.

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