Press Release: Remarks by President Trump Announcing an Executive Order on Preventing Online Censorship Issued on May 28, 2020

Oval Office

3:47 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. We’re here today to defend free speech from one of the gravest dangers it has faced in American history, frankly. And you know what’s going as well as anybody. It’s not good.

A small handful of powerful social media monopolies controls a vast portion of all public and private communications in the United States. And we know what they are; we don’t have to name them. We’re going to give you a complete listing. We’re going to give you a signed copy of what I’m going to be signing in a couple of minutes, and you’ll see exactly what we’re doing.

They’ve had unchecked power to censor, restrict, edit, shape, hide, alter virtually any form of communication between private citizens and large public audiences. There’s no precedent in American history for so small a number of corporations to control so large a sphere of human interaction. And that includes individual people controlling vast amounts of territory.

And we can’t allow that to happen, especially when they go about doing what they’re doing, because they’re doing things incorrectly. They have points of view. And if we go by that, it’s actually amazing that there was a success in 2016. But we can’t let this continue to happen. It’s very, very unfair.

And you look at the statistics and you look at what is going on, and I think everybody would very much agree with that, including Democrats, by the way. I saw quite a few Democrats are saying this is about time something is done. So let’s see if they keep that decision after they hear that we agree with them.

The choices that Twitter makes when it chooses to suppress, edit, blacklist, shadow, ban are editorial decisions, pure and simple. They’re editorial decisions. In those moments, Twitter ceases to be a neutral public platform, and they become an editor with a viewpoint. And I think we can say that about others also, whether you’re looking at Google, whether you’re looking at Facebook and perhaps others.

One egregious example is when they try to silence views that they disagree with by selectively applying a “fact check” — a fact check — F-A-C-T. Fact check. What they choose to fact check and what they choose to ignore or even promote is nothing more than a political activism group or political activism. And it’s inappropriate. If you look at what’s happened, you look at where they’re going, where they’re coming from, I think you all see it yourselves.

This censorship and bias is a threat to freedom itself. Imagine if your phone company silenced or edited your conversation. Social media companies have vastly more power and more reach than any phone company in the United States. More reach, actually, than your newspapers, by far. More reach than a lot of your traditional forms of communication.

Therefore, today I’m signing an executive order to protect and uphold the free speech and rights of the American people. Currently, social media giants, like Twitter, receive an unprecedented liability shield based on the theory that they’re a neutral platform — which they’re not — not an editor with a viewpoint.

My executive order calls for new regulations, under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, to make it that social media companies that engage in censoring or any political conduct will not be able to keep their liability shield. That’s a big deal. They have a shield; they can do what they want. They have a shield. They’re not going to have that shield.

My executive order further instructs the Federal Trade Commission, FTC, to prohibit social media companies from engaging in any deceptive acts or practices affecting commerce. This authority resides in Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act. I think you know it pretty well. Most of you know it very well. I would think you know it quite well, right?

Additionally, I’m directing the Attorney General to work cooperatively with the states. He’s going to be working very much and very closely in cooperation with the states to enforce their own laws against such deceptive business practices. The states have brought in powerful authority to regulate in this arena, and they’ll be doing it also — and we encourage them to do it — if they see exactly as we’ve been seeing.

It’s — what they’re doing is tantamount to monopoly, you can say. It’s tantamount to taking over the airwaves. Can’t let it happen. Otherwise, we’re not going to have a democracy. We’re not going to have anything to do with a republic.

Finally, I’m directing my administration to develop policies and procedures to ensure taxpayer dollars are not going into any social media company that repress free speech. The government spends billions of dollars on giving them money. They’re rich enough. So we’re going to be doing none of it or a very little of it.

As President, I’ll not allow the American people to be bullied by these giant corporations. Many people have wanted this to be done by presidents for a long time. And now we’re doing it. And I’m sure they’ll be doing a lawsuit, and I’m also sure that we’re going to be going for legislation, in addition to this. And the legislation will start immediately.

And I’ll tell you, I’ve been called by Democrats that want to do this, and so I think you could possibly have a bipartisan situation. But we’re fed up with it, and it’s unfair, and it’s been very unfair. And we’ll see what happens.

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