KEY POINTS

  • President Donald Trump signed the executive order calling for new provisions to section 230 of Title V of the Telecommunications Act of 1996
  • Before signing he said about deleting his Twitter account, "If we had a fair press in this country, I would do that in a heartbeat"
  • Trump’s executive order is seen as an attempt to restrain social media companies

United States President Donald Trump signed an executive order (EO) on Thursday calling for new provisions to section 230 of Title V of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, also known as the Communications Decency Act.

Before signing the EO, Trump was asked by reporters if he had considered deleting his account on Twitter. He responded, "If we had a fair press in this country, I would do that in a heartbeat. There's nothing I'd rather do than get rid of my whole Twitter account,” and added he needed Twitter to push back against "fake news."

Section 230 of the 24-year-old Telecommunications Act is summed up by what has been called the 26 words that created the internet: No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.

The act protects huge companies like Twitter and Facebook from regulations that apply to publishers and third-party content. Any “tweet” or social media post is considered third-party content. Section 230 also allows social media to regulate content posted on their platforms.

Trump’s EO is seen as an attempt to restrain social media companies after Twitter flagged two of his tweets with a fact-check label. The labels are intended to fight misinformation on the topic be it the COVID-19 pandemic or someone’s political views.

Trump has used Twitter since well before his election in 2016 and now uses the platform to announce policy moves or personnel changes. He has more than 80 million followers, which puts Trump in ninth place, following former President Barack Obama with nearly 118 million followers (#1) and several entertainment figures like Justin Bieber (#2), Katy Perry (#3), Lady Gaga (#7), and Ellen DeGeneres (#8) according to Brandwatch, a social intelligence company.

Trump has used Twitter to lodge personal attacks on his many critics, who also claim he frequently posts misleading or false information that constitute a violation of the social media platform's community standards.

Tuesday’s flags of Trump’s comments were the first time Twitter had ever fact-checked any of the president's tweets. This raised the ire of the White House and some of Trump’s conservative allies.  

Trump said, "We're here today to defend free speech from one of the greatest dangers it has faced in American history, frankly, and you know what's going on as well as anybody. It's not good,” and proceeded to sign the order.

Some legal experts who spoke to Business Insider said parts of Trump's order are likely illegal and will be difficult if not impossible to enforce.

Twitter's move to label President Donald Trump's tweets as misleading has sparked an angry response from the White House, which is seeking new regulations on internet platforms Twitter's move to label President Donald Trump's tweets as misleading has sparked an angry response from the White House, which is seeking new regulations on internet platforms Photo: AFP / Olivier DOULIERY