Trump’s Social Media Order Lays Groundwork To Punish Twitter, Facebook, Google For Pointing Out Lies

Trump’s Social Media Order Lays Groundwork To Punish Twitter, Facebook, Google For Pointing Out Lies

Update: The final executive order has been released and added below the post and above the draft version published here previously  It's finally here: The day when Donald Trump will use the power of the presidency to unilaterally threaten private companies not for action (or inaction) deemed detrimental to US national security (e.g., offshoring), rather, for simply daring to suggest that Americans get the facts behind demonstrable falsehoods. Following Trump's threat to "close down" America
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28 thoughts on “Trump’s Social Media Order Lays Groundwork To Punish Twitter, Facebook, Google For Pointing Out Lies

  1. Now, IANAL, much less a constitutional scholar, but my understanding of the 1st Amendment is that it protects free speech against government censorship, and that as a private company, Twitter can do whatever it damn well pleases. So today, Trump water-carrying Senator Josh Hawley called to revoke liability protections for the giant social media companies:

    “It’s pretty simple: if Twitter and Google and the rest are going to editorialize and censor and act like traditional publishers, they should be treated like traditional publishers and stop receiving the special carve out from the federal government in Section 230,” Hawley wrote on Twitter.”

    Funny thing is, I agree with him: Twitter and FB are cesspools of propaganda and disinformation campaigns. I would love to see them “police” their platforms – at least somewhat. Of course, he doesn’t seem to realize that the first thing they would do is ban Trump, who violates their TOS on a daily basis. And then we’d end up with what Neal Stephenson predicted in his last novel, “Dodge In Hell”: we’d have two separate “Internets”, one for right-wing conservatives, and the original one for everybody else. Dang we are living in strange times.

      1. Actually an EO can go a long way in this context. These are FCC rules that can be changed –Twitter, FB etc could be redefined a media companies that are open to defamation lawsuits from which they are currently exempt. There is a rule-writing, adoption, interpretation process but that is all within the purview of the executive branch –not so different than the “Net Neutrality” rule that the FCC overturned not too long ago. In other words an EO directing the FCC to review the rules is nothing to sniff at.

        1. I think at least Twitter has figured out they had better start distancing themselves from 45 or else they will be on the wrong side of history in 2021. The fact that they are taking away one of his most used toys has got to infuriate him to no end. They seem to have gamed out how they are going to play this and he is in for a fight. Really at a time when he cannot afford to lose one of his most important tools. Will be interesting and not, in my view, likely to involve the others unless off course the attacks cause collateral damage.

      1. And the use of scare quotes in the comment above represents an ongoing refusal to accept the reality: Donald Trump lies all the time. Not “spin”, not “counternarrative”, not whatever else you want to call something that is misinformation, but not an outright lie. The President of the United States frequently says things that are simply not true on any interpretation, in any universe, anywhere.

        Forget politics. The president has made so many demonstrably false claims about the economy (as in, he has cited numbers that are either make-believe, or simply not the real numbers) on so many occasions that I stopped documenting them because there was no point.

        When confronted with that reality, he has, at various intervals, simply refused to correct what are indisputable falsehoods.

        There is no excuse for that. None. When you take it out of the political realm (as I just did there), all you’re left with are lies. Political spin is one thing, but deliberately misstating economy figures which are readily available on the websites of the agencies staffed by his people is an example of reality distortion on the part of the man trusted with the world’s foremost democracy.

        That can, and should, be called out.

          1. No, I didn’t. I made the case that a society governed by a leader who lies and who uses the power of his office to threaten and bully private enterprises which dare to call him out on those lies is not a democracy. It is an autocracy. What Trump is doing is a soft version of the tactics employed in China, Iran and Turkey, where the leadership wields the organs of government to punish dissent both on social media and in the press. This appears to be the beginning of that in the US, which is hardly surprising given three years of rhetoric from the White House suggesting critical media outlets should be closed down. Unfortunately, there really isn’t much ambiguity about this. It is an authoritarian-esque maneuver, and it isn’t the first. As I suggested last year after Barr spun the Mueller report, Trump now has virtually unchecked power to install a soft-autocracy, which is precisely what he’s done. Mitch McConnell has enabled that, without actually saying much, which is typical. As McConnell once put it: “You can’t get in trouble for what you don’t say”. As I also made clear last year (and prior to that), I personally am unaffected by this shift in America’s governance structure, and have benefited from some of Trump’s policies. But let’s not be obtuse. He exhibits many of the traits of an autocrat. That is an objective assessment. The only people who would argue that point are those who don’t know much about autocracies. It just is what it is. This isn’t really a democracy anymore. Will my life (or yours or anyone else’s for that matter) be much affected? Probably not. But that’s how autocracies are built over time — eventually, the masses simply acquiesce to it as long as it isn’t too intrusive into their daily lives. That is what’s going on right now.

          2. “Will my life (or yours or anyone else’s for that matter) be much affected? Probably not. But that’s how autocracies are built over time – eventually, the masses simply acquiesce to it as long as it isn’t too intrusive into their daily lives.”

            H – you pulled your punch. An autocracy will definitely affect all our lives. Ask anyone in the countries you mention plus others if their daily lives are affected, and I think you’ll get a different answer. Under such a scenario it’s only a matter of time before The Heisenberg Report is shut down.
            God help us.

          3. Well, I want to be careful not to ostracize readers who honestly support Trump, where “honestly” simply means that they acknowledge the reality of the situation, but prefer him to the alternatives all the same. While I think that’s unfortunate, I admire plenty of disreputable people, although I wouldn’t install any of them in the Oval Office. In contrast to many other Trump critics, all I have ever asked of Trump supporters who comment here, is to acknowledge the reality of the situation which just means admitting something like this: “Yeah, I understand why he is objectionable to many, and I also understand that his actions are not consistent with American democracy as it’s normally defined and conceptualized. But, for reasons I have carefully thought through, I still prefer him”. If a Trump supporter can say that, well then, he/she can plausibly claim to harbor a well-informed opinion, which I will then respect.

          4. You need to separate the individual from the policies.

            I voted for Obama because he came across as a good, decent man. But then I disliked his policies, what he tried to what and what little he managed to achieve. So what is the point of electing someone whose policies you don’t support?

            Trump is the opposite. There are many things about the individual that I don’t like but do like his policy positions. I also think his rough abrasive nature is positive in certain instances, i.e., standing up to China.

            Obama’s bark was better than his bite. Trump bites, gets things done, if you can ignore his bark.

          5. @Saun76 you say that he has stood up to China, but what concessions has he extracted that will be met? If you regularly follow this site, it’s pretty clear that China is unlikely to be able to hold up their end of the bargain and those commitments were rather meager in the first place. Chinese leadership has the luxury of time and will wait out Trump as Trump has very little leverage this close to the election lest he risk tanking the market.

            Beyond that, I would argue the opposite that for all of Trump’s bluster, he actually does very little. He just constantly tells you he is doing things with very little substance to back it up. This pandemic is a prime example. State and local governments are the ones doing the heavy lifting while Trump watches cable news and tweets away.

  2. To tweak Mr. Stephenson, create a separate twitter or Facebook platform solely for political discourse. Anything goes. That would be interesting, entertaining, and revealing. Truly a digital soapbox. Edit and enforce policies for all other discourse.

  3. Trump has his underwear all in a knot just because Twitter placed a link to additional information under one of his stupider tweets. Meanwhile, China has passed a security law that will probably stifle many of the freedoms that Hong Kong currently enjoys. In response, Pompeo js threatening to toss some Chinese graduate students out of the US, which will probably hurt US research more than it hurts China.

    What has happened to that former champion of international freedom and democracy, the Republican Party? Nothing, really. It was a facade all along. Now we see the true face of the Republican Party.

    1. During the last 30 years of teaching MBA students I had many Chinese graduate students. I know they were selected to come to the US but in general their writing, thinking, reflection and overall intellectual quality was embarrassingly superior to my native students. They were a pleasure to work with and from information I had, they were embraced by quality employers in not just the US, but also in Canada and Europe, as well as their native China. Throwing these students out of the US instead of recruiting them to stay is short sighted and pernicious.

    2. Well said. What a thin skin for someone who is theoretically the most powerful person in the world. And an idiot too.

  4. I might be wrong, but it seems like on this website (The Heisenberg Report), we are allowed to disagree without being censored. In addition, if someone posts inaccuracies or something deemed illogical by others, then paying members, and even non-paying readers, are free to comment and respond without censure.
    As it should be.

    1. Much like the golden era prior to 2004 or so, this is attributed simply to volume of readers and content subject matter.

      I miss when it was only nerds who lived online, chatting in message boards and generally building good will. Once every website had a comments section at the bottom, and once the iPhone broke through and proliferated handheld internet access at all times, we lost containment.

      I remember when Facebook was a fun spot to fool around when it was only college kids. Once your uncle and grandma started posting, it really changed the platform. Then came the political targeting.

      Back to the main point: this is a macroeconomics blog that primarily caters to well-read individuals and those interested and peering behind the markets. Notice how much higher the comment total is in this article versus the Ray Dalio piece to drive this home.

      Lower readership + complex content (not too sure the two of them are independent here) != a standard Breitbart/Wapo article or social media post.

      Which is probably why I happily pay my $7.

  5. H, I don’t always follow you deep into the charting/quant weeds, but you’re always lucid on matters involving what used to be known as consensual reality. This state still exists: it’s just obscured by a ton of smoke and quite a few mirrors. Thanks for scraping it all off and keeping me/us sane.

  6. Talk about losing your freedoms…is everyone as sick as I am about it being open season on persons of colour in the US. If the guilty are not imprisoned it will speak volumes about the quality of justice.

    1. Man of Lourdes,

      I am sickened as you are. While videos are new, this kind of injustice is anything but. I share your desire for justice to prevail. If it does, historically speaking, it will be the exception and certainly not the rule.

  7. It seems Twitter has gamed out all these scenarios and is ready for a fight. Really at a time when 45 cannot afford a fight like this. Does seem he is heading back to his behaviors that led to bankruptcy. While $20 million in lawsuits will not hurt Twitter, it will make a serious dent in RNC’s ability to overwhem Democrats down ballot. Will be interesting for sure to see this play out.

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