Former President Trump’s bid to retaliate against social media crackdowns is no more. The Verge reports that President Biden has revoked Executive Order 13925, a Trump measure that had the Federal Trade Commission take action against internet firms that modified or removed posts in ways that didn’t “align” with those companies’ publicly stated policies.
The order was billed as an attempt to prevent online censorship of political ideas. However, it came just two days after Twitter fact-checked a Trump tweet making unsupported claims that mail-in ballots were guaranteed to be “substantially” fraudulent, prompting anger from the former President. Trump’s order was meant to limit the scope of the Communications Decency Act’s Section 230 under the belief that internet giants were abusing user liability protections to censor conservative ideology.
Biden didn’t explain the move, although it came alongside revocations of other orders issued in response to mid-2020 social issues, such a demand for action against those defacing or tearing down statues on federal land.
The order doesn’t appear to have been meaningfully enforced. Activists and think tanks sued the Trump administration in June 2020 and August 2020 over concerns the order might chill free speech by letting the government punish companies with different political views.
Efforts to restrict Section 230 haven’t been limited to Trump or other conservatives. Democrat senators introduced a bill in February to limit liability for ads, non-speech activity and certain acts like discrimination, harassment and stalking. The Trump measure was one of the most prominent examples, however, and its nature as an executive order gave it a fragile footing — any future President who disagreed could just as easily undo it. Biden’s move doesn’t end the debate over Section 230, but it does suggest that any significant changes or reinterpretations will have to come through Congress.
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