Wednesday, May 27, 2020

"Trump to Sign Executive Order on Social Media Amid Twitter Furor"

By Eugene Volokh - May 27, 2020 at 10:59PM

So reports Politico (Cristiano Lima), among other out

President Donald Trump is expected to sign an executive order aimed at social media companies on Thursday, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters Wednesday evening, a move that comes as the president and his allies have escalated their allegations that companies like Twitter and Facebook stifle GOP voices.

McEnany told reporters aboard Air Force One that the order is "pertaining to social media" but shared no additional details on what it will do. But the announcement revived fears within the online industry that the Trump administration will target a 24-year-old statute that protects the companies from lawsuits—an avenue that a growing number of Republican lawmakers have advocated in their bias allegations about Silicon Valley.

But the President of course has no power to revise statutes such as 47 U.S.C. § 230 by executive order. He can order his subordinates in the federal Executive Branch to apply laws in various ways, but § 230 is enforced in judicial proceedings (state and federal), not by federal prosecutors or other Executive Branch employees. Whether § 230 should be revised is an interesting question (I'm inclined to say that it's on balance better than the alternatives), but it takes Congress to revise the work of a past Congress.

Now of course the President can talk about § 230, and can urge Congress to revise it; perhaps that's all the "executive order" will say. But one doesn't need an executive order for that.

Finally, the President could, I suppose, control how Executive Branch agencies use social media platforms, and an executive order would be a suitable too for that. But that would seem an odd things for him to do. I suppose we'll learn tomorrow just what he has planned, but I am mystified.

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