Trump’s draft online censorship EO is in violation of the First Amendment, says free speech expert

The leaked draft of an executive order to involve the FCC and the FTC in content moderation decisions made by online platforms is clearly in violation of the First Amendment, argues Jennifer Lambe, associate professor of communication at the University of Delaware.

Lambe, who is an expert in free speech and free press, said the First Amendment guarantees that government cannot restrict people’s free expression.  

“There is no such assurance that private companies like Facebook and Twitter won’t limit you according to their terms of service,” she said. “Current law also provides broad immunity to platforms when they remove content, so long as they are acting in good faith. And while there are legitimate concerns about the power these companies have in shaping public dialogue, substituting the judgment of government bureaucrats would pour fuel on the fire.”

The FCC, in particular, is controlled by the party who holds the Presidency, Lambe said. The executive order would essentially allow partisan politics to influence content moderation decisions, which is precisely counter to the purpose the order is supposedly designed to achieve.

“The executive order, and Trump’s recent social media summit, are all predicated on there being a bias against conservative voices on online platforms. There is no empirical evidence that such a bias exists,” Lambe said. 

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