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Reported Executive Order Again Threatens First Amendment and Empowers Government Censorship

President Trump is expected to sign a sweeping Executive Order today that would direct both the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission to engage in the regulation of online speech. “The President is using the threat of regulation to try to coerce social media platforms into moderating speech the way the President sees fit. That runs directly counter to the First Amendment,” said Alexandra Givens, President & CEO of the Center for Democracy & Technology.

“Congress designed Section 230 so that intermediaries can moderate the content they host. It’s precisely that protection that enables social media companies to take steps to combat mis- and disinformation. President Trump may not like the results of that moderation, but he cannot change the law by fiat,” Givens said.

The Executive Order, as currently reported, seeks to empower the FCC well beyond the scope of what Congress has authorized–and in direct contradiction to the FCC and the Trump Administration’s previous positions on internet regulation. The FCC has no statutory role in interpreting or enforcing Section 230. “President Trump is attempting to rewrite the text of Section 230 through this Executive Order, overriding more than 20 years of court interpretation of the statute and usurping the role of Congress,” said Givens.

“Section 230 has been crucial to supporting the flourishing of free expression online,” Givens said. “From online harassment to foreign interference in elections, there are real issues with how we talk to each other online. They won’t be solved by unlawful Executive Orders aimed at scoring political points.”