Trump administration is drafting an executive order to take on alleged anti-conservative bias at social-media companies

The White House is drafting an executive order intended to address allegations of anti-conservative bias at major social-media companies…

Jack Crowe for National Review:

The specifics of the executive order, such as how it would define bias at what penalties it would impose, remain unclear since the document has not yet been finalized, three White House officials told Politico

News of the nascent executive order comes one month after President Trump vowed, during a gathering of right-wing social-media personalities, to study “all regulatory and legislative solutions” to combat the anti-conservative bias that he argues runs rampant on platforms such as Twitter and Facebook…

In a largely symbolic gesture, Trump signed an executive order earlier this year requiring that universities agree to promote free speech on campus before they become eligible to receive federal funds.

Margaret Harding McGill and Daniel Lippman for Politico:

Accusations of anti-conservative bias have become a frequent rallying cry for Trump and his supporters, seizing on incidents in which tech platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Google-owned YouTube… The issue took center stage during a White House gathering in July in which Trump railed against censorship in front of a roomful of online conservative activists, and directed his administration to explore all “regulatory and legislative solutions to protect free speech and the free-speech rights of all Americans.” Just this week, Trump warned that he is “watching Google very closely,” citing the case of an engineer who has claimed the company fired him for his conservative views.

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  1. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

    It would seem Trump thinks that because he is not Congress, he will have unfettered ability to trample the first amendment to the Constitution. If he ever read it….

    1. The Executive Branch cannot even adopt constitutional legislation. It certainly cannot adopt legislation to infringe the First Amendment. How many regular posters here complained for eight years about Obama executive Orders? How often did the pre-President Trump do the same?

      It is simply not the case that Article II of the original Constitution grants the President “more power than you would believe.” It grants only certain enumerated powers subject to checks and balances from Congress, the Courts, and our Federal structure.

      Whether you think the media have abused their freedom or not, you cannot—consistent with our Constitution—think that the President has the authority to fix it by decree.

      Trump is not an all-powerful figure like Putin. Yet.

      1. An executive order to protect freedom of speech should be rejoiced by all. The fact that it is not is the real threat to Freedom of Speech—not Trump. He’s only there for 6 more years at most.

        The people who do not value freedom of speech are the true threats.

      1. If expressing your opinion even when it disagrees with The Government is not free speech, what is? Please enlighten all us idiots.

        Suggesting that any medium should be “shut down for bias” by government action is breathtakingly totalitarian and unAmerican.

        1. Shut down for not being unbias platforms they claimed to be in order to get gov’t protected status which allowed them to become monopolies.

          Shut them down so they can be replaced by truly unbiassed platforms that they falsely and fraudulently claimed to be.

        2. So, only Government-dictated content is free speech,

          Being allowed to exist is gov’t protected status.

          “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.”

      1. You can’t have it both ways. Rethugs like you wanted corporations to be people and money to be “speech” so you could roughshod over the electoral process, flooding it with money from unaccounted sources including foreign donors.

        Now you propose that “the media”, however you define it, should have a government take away their Constitutional rights or worse.

        Which is it? Sounds like you WANT fascism, as long as your party is the only one standing.

  2. Freedom of Speech is tricky. At what does “expressing ones opinion” become “inciting a riot” or maybe even “a credible threat”? Do social media companies have the right/responsibility to not allow posts that they deem “hate” or “calls to violence”? How much editorial control should a private firm have over the views expressed on their medium? What is a companies liability for accepting paid ads without checking their content and validity? Is it possible for people of an opposing view to create their own content delivery system on which to express their views?

    What has happened to libel and slander laws in the United States? They have always been difficult to prove in court but at this point it does not look like anybody is even willing to try. Eight families of victims of the Sandy Hook shooting are litigating against Alex Jones and he is defending his freedom of speech. This is extremely challenging no matter which side you think is right. While I think Jones is incorrect in his assumptions about Sandy Hook, I recognise that speech that I find offensive is still protected. The real question is did his speech rise to the level of harassment or defamation? Did the anguish felt by the families rise to the level of “injury”? Plain and simple, are there damages?

    Freedom of speech is the freedom for us to disagree without the fear of retribution but it comes with a genuine need for decorum. If we just yell at each other rather than engaging in discussion, then nothing productive can come of it. Our nations greatest strength comes from the diverse beliefs of all of us.

    1. Did I go to sleep last night in the United States of America and wake up in some country where it is even possible to ask, “How much editorial control should a private firm have over the views expressed on their medium?”

      The context here isn’t whether allowing private parties unlimited freedom to control the message on their own medium (short of conscious calls for violence) is polite or morally justified in some abstract sense. It is the concrete case of whether The Government/Uncle Sam/Big Brother can legally take that control away from private parties without violating the prohibition on laws “abridging freedom of speech, or of the press.” That is exactly what Mr. Trump is apparently proposing to do.

      The next question is, “Even if Congress could constitutionally make such a law (hypothetically), could the Chief Executive issue a decree allowing The Government to dictate the content of social media or any other private form of expression without any basis in either the Constitution or adopted legislation?”

      What’s next? An Executive Order requiring registered Democrats to place “Trump 2020” signs on their cars and front lawns? An Executive Order requiring phone companies to release unlisted numbers to Alex Jones so he can more effectively dox crime victims (some of the Newtown families had to move three times)? An Order adopting a new “equal time” rule that requires news services to give exactly the same amount of favorable coverage (as judged by The Government in its sole discretion) to Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, Greens, Flat Earthers, Socialists, Communists, Jihadis, Zionists, and Nazis?

      None of that is possible while the First Amendment is still in effect. Neither is an Executive Order dictating the ideological content of private platforms. As a Supreme Court Justice in another time of national dissent observed,

      “Madison and the other Framers of the First Amendment, able men that they were, wrote in language they earnestly believed could never be misunderstood: ‘Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom… of the press….’

      “Both the history and language of the First Amendment support the view that the press must be left free to publish news, whatever the source, without censorship, injunctions, or prior restraints.

      “In the First Amendment, the Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill its essential role in our democracy. The press was to serve the governed, not the governors.

      “The Government’s power to censor the press was abolished so that the press would remain forever free to censure the Government. The press was protected so that it could bare the secrets of government and inform the people. Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government. And paramount among the responsibilities of a free press is the duty to prevent any part of the government from deceiving the people…”

      Black, J. concurring in NYT v. Sullivan

      1. I do not, in any way, disagree with your horror at a president or congress “abridging freedom of speech, or of the press” but I do believe my questions are appropriate. Capitalism is democracy with money. We as consumers vote with every dollar give to any company. If we agree with the policies and actions of a company, we should support it. If you feel that the company is philosophically opposed to your own beliefs, then you need to stop supporting them. While the government does not have a place in shutting down a business for a practice that it finds simply offensive, the general populace most certainly does. The questions are meant to be abstract questions we each need to answer for ourselves so that we can be informed consumers.

        I felt from your answer that you assumed that I support President Trump in this action but you could not be more wrong. From your answer, I assume you are a constitutionalists, while I, myself, am a libertarian. If true, we will mostly agree on almost everything, but I believe that each individual needs to take full responsibility for our decisions. We cannot be simply born into a Constitutional Democratic Republic and depend that the Constitution will just protect us. We must ask the questions and look at every side of each and every issue and then act according to the truth we find for ourselves.

        I used my Alex Jones example because, while I find his rhetoric irresponsible and offensive, I am not damaged by it. I do think, though, that the people who are taking him to court where injured. I hope that they will be able to demonstrate it in court. Defamation/slander/libel laws are the protection that is in place to help us when we are attacked falsely.

        As for you excellent quote from NYT v. Sullivan, this is a great example but it only looks at one part of the First Amendment. They First not only protects the press but also the individual. My closing paragraph above is a call for all of us to rejoice in our freedom but to use it wisely. I fear the example being set currently by our “leaders” who use this powerful tool to attack and slander rather than to engage and debate. If our society continues to follow this example, we will fall into the chaos of hate and distrust.

        1. I agree with almost everything you say. Boycotts and commercial pressure are perfectly legitimate ways to counter speech with which we disagree. Calling for government censorship is entirely illegitimate.

  3. The media has a proven track record of being biased and steering, based on agendas. Then they wonder why newspapers sales are down, people don’t trust them and their business model is collapsing. When I see the media leaning a story, they loose credibility to me.. I am sure many feel the same way.

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