President Biden Axes Trump Attack on Social Media

President Joe Biden official portrait
President Joe Biden (Image credit: White House)

President Joe Biden has rescinded former President Donald Trump’s May 2020 Section 230 executive order on online censorship (order 13925 on “Preventing Online Censorship,”) which was targeted at social media sites Trump had long argued were biased against conservatives and his Administration.

The current president has his own issues with Section 230 (candidate Biden told The New York Times it should be revoked. That section of the Communications Act provides websites with immunity from civil liability for their treatment of content posted on their sites by third parties, but the Trump effort was clearly not the way he wanted to approach the issue, which is still hot, though the effort to enlist the FCC as a regulator did not go anywhere.

Trump’s May 28 executive order enlisted the Federal Communications Commission in trying to weed out alleged censorship of conservative speech by labeling it deceptive and thus a violation of an online content provider's terms of service.

Current acting FCC chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel at the time opposed the agency‘s participation in what appeared to be an exercise in discouraging content the president didn't like.

The order also directed the government not to spend ad dollars on sites determined to be violating those terms of service.  

As an independent agency, the FCC is not subject to executive orders, so the National Telecommunications & Information Administration was charged with asking the FCC to implement new rules allowing the FCC to judge under what conditions restricting access to content can be considered a violation of an online platform's terms of service. Currently the FCC does not regulate social media sites or ISPs beyond their terms of service.

The FCC ultimately took no action on the NTIA petition to regulate social media sites.

Biden revoked the order along with some others that tried to prevent the removal of "American Monuments, Memorials and Statues," and tied their attempted removal to "criminal violence."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.