D.C. players were quick to weigh in on President Donald Trump's planned executive order targeting social media and what White House and Republicans had asserted was censorship of conservative speech.
“Social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Google are private companies, which means that they enjoy First Amendment free speech protection against government interference with their editorial decisions," said Free State Foundation President Randolph May. "It is pretty disingenuous for Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to claim, as he has, that by flagging President Trump’s tweets for ‘fact-checking’ that Twitter is not in some sense acting as an ‘arbiter of the truth.’ But even assuming that Twitter may have a political bias, intentional or otherwise, I’d prefer that Twitter act as a such an arbiter, or even as a censor, than the government. And that is the choice that the Founders and the people made when they adopted and ratified the First Amendment and put it at the top of the Bill of Rights.
"[T]his does not mean that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which is the focus of the Trump Executive Order, should be immune from any scrutiny. Almost a quarter century after adoption, there may be tweaks to the immunity law that would reflect today’s realities. But, to be clear, any such changes should not be directed to impacting the First Amendment’s protection against government interference with speech relating to politics or matters of public concern. Such speech is at the core of the First Amendment, and robust back-and-forth in the marketplace of ideas remains the best remedy for redressing perceived untruths or biases."
CCIA president Matt Schruers says the executive order, if it follows the outlines of the draft, would be the un-American action.
“Social media services are engines of free expression for all political identities, and Internet users, including the President, can choose from a variety of platforms to express their views," he said.
“All Americans should be concerned to find a U.S. president issuing executive orders in response to a company that challenges the veracity of his statements. Social media companies -- and all Americans -- have an inviolable right to comment on what our government says. Ultimately we have to ask: are we a nation that tolerates its President retaliating against private companies for questioning his words?
“Retaliation against the private sector for fact-checking leadership is what we expect from foreign autocracies, not the United States. If consistent with current reports, this order would be profoundly un-American and a blight on our free speech traditions.”
“We the people built our nation on laws. Laws that protect speech, laws that promote innovation, laws that guarantee our freedoms will flourish forever," said Chip Pickering, CEO of INCOMPAS, whose members include Twitter, Google, Amazon, Facebook and a laundry list of other tech giants. "Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is the law of the land for a reason. It gives all people the ability to raise their voice, promote their ideas and create new businesses online.
“Since the dawn of our democracy, promoting free speech while protecting our citizens from harm has always been a collective responsibility that is already enshrined into the 230 law and should not be changed. Social media is an American made engine for economic growth and opportunity. The Executive Order threatens to hurt innovators and small business on Main Street who depend on social media the most.”
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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.