Jack Quann
Jack Quann

07.41 29 May 2020


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A US executive order taking aim at firms such as Twitter has been described as a 'shot across the bow' of social media companies.

US President Donald Trump has signed the order aimed at curbing protections for social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter.

He is engaged in a public feud with the companies, which he has accused of censoring free speech and bias.

It comes as Twitter flagged one of Mr Trump's tweets about mail-in ballots in California with a fact-check warning.

The executive order points out that social media companies should forgo their legal immunity from the law, should they edit users' content on their platforms.

Anthony Zurcher is senior North America correspondent with the BBC.

He told Newstalk Breakfast it could be a long time before the order kicks in.

"The main part of this executive order is instructing a federal agency, the Federal Communications Commission, to look at a law that dates back to 1996 that provided social media companies protections from lawsuits from individuals that commit libel on the site.

"So essentially if someone goes on Twitter and commits libel, Twitter can't be sued for it.

"What Donald Trump wants to have happen is for his administration to look at whether social media companies do not provide equal access - that maybe do what they did to Donald Trump, which is post some sort of a note on his tweets, in what they view as a restriction on his free speech.

"They want them to have those protections rescinded.

"That's a big part of it".

"Also there are some parts of the executive order that are instructing the Justice Department to cooperate with states to investigate whether state laws are being violated by social media companies - and other measures to allow complaints from people who feel like their speech has been restricted by social media companies.

"It's not going to have an immediate action because it's instructing a lot of agencies to look into things - but consider it a shot across a bow of social media companies that Donald Trump wants them to be more regulated more strictly".

"Donald Trump talked about big action in response to Twitter's decision, but it would be a long process before any of this executive order becomes policy action".

"I think this is more a symbolic gesture to show Donald Trump is upset with what Twitter did by flagging two of his tweets about mail voting - which did contain some inaccurate, false statements.

"But he knows that Twitter is one of his biggest avenues for reaching people, millions of Americans, unfiltered by the mainstream media.

"And if it starts getting filtered by Twitter, that is a serious threat to his ability to get his message out".

Executive order by Donald Trump 'a shot across the bow' for social media

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Main image: US President Donald Trump makes remarks before signing an executive order in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC. Picture by: Doug Mills/DPA/PA Images

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