Per White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, President Trump is signing an executive order tomorrow “pertaining to social media.”
Details on the order have not been provided yet.
The announcement comes a day after Twitter attached a warning to some of Trump’s tweets.
On the flight back from Florida, WH press secretary told reporters on Air Force One Trump plans to sign an executive order aimed at social media companies. WH says the exec order will be signed Thursday.
— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) May 27, 2020
Per NBCNews, Trump tweeted Wednesday morning that “Republicans feel that Social Media Platforms totally silence conservatives voices,” an indication that the president may be able to use Twitter’s fact checking efforts to ramp up accusations of bias against tech companies.
“We will strongly regulate, or close them down, before we can ever allow this to happen,” Trump added, although it’s unclear under what authority the government could do so.
It’s far from the first time politicians have sought to put pressure on tech companies over efforts to rein in misinformation.
In 2018, lawmakers called Dorsey in front of a congressional hearing to answer questions about how Twitter approached censorship, among other subjects. Dorsey at the time pledged to take a light touch on most subjects people tweet about.
If the president wants to escalate the feud, he has few legal options, experts said.
“I can’t think of any legit legal paths available here,” said Chip Stewart, a professor of journalism at Texas Christian University. “The First Amendment simply bars the government from compelling a private company’s speech. That would literally be the censorship Trump complains is instead happening to him.”
Aside from extracting further promises or making regulatory threats, the only leverage Trump has may be his presence. And he might not enjoy Facebooking, Instagramming or YouTubing as much as he does tweeting.
The president has a prodigious Facebook audience, and even though the social network is much larger than Twitter and an important part of Trump’s re-election campaign, it doesn’t offer him the same instantaneous feedback of Twitter because its news feed is based on a complicated algorithm.
Similarly, Instagram and Snapchat aren’t designed for the kind of text-heavy messages that dominate Twitter and characterize Trump’s announcements. YouTube requires much more camera time without the benefit of instant sharing. TikTok is also video-based and comes with rising Republican concern about its ties to China, while fringe tech startups like Gab are relatively small. Using the app Nextdoor would limit the president’s reach to the neighborhoods surrounding his home.
Twitter, likewise, has repeatedly said it doesn’t intend to remove Trump from the service, perhaps no matter what he says. It has also given him leeway with what he tweets.
“We believe it’s important that the world sees how global leaders think and how they act,” Dorsey told HuffPost last year.
But now the service, by fact checking Trump for the first time, has also drawn a line in the sand — and the conflict may keep ratcheting up.
“The fact that they’ve now applied a fact checking notice to his tweets about voting means it’s going to be very hard for them not to keep labeling tweets,” said Schiller of the Aspen Institute. “They just made life much harder for themselves, honestly. I think it’s absolutely the right decision, but it’s now much trickier.”