Upon announcing an executive order on preventing online censorship on Thursday, President Donald Trump was asked why he would not simply walk away from Twitter given his concerns over the social media platform.
Trump responded that he would leave his Twitter account “in a heartbeat” if there were not “so much fake news,” and further explained to reporters why he continues to have a social media presence.
“Mr. President, given your concern with Twitter, have you given any consideration to deleting your account, to just walking away from this platform you’ve been so critical of?” a reporter asked Trump.
“Well, you know, if you weren’t fake, I would not even think about it. I would do that in a heartbeat,” the president responded.
“I’m real, sir,” the reporter responded.
“But the news—the news is fake. If you look at what gets printed in newspapers, if only the public could understand where they’re reading a story and they think it’s real, and it’s not real in so many cases,” Trump added. “And I’m not saying in every case. You have some great journalists. You have some journalists that I have great respect for. But largely, I find, at least in a political sense, there is so much fake news. It’s disgraceful.”
Trump continued, “I would do that in a heartbeat if we had a fair press in this country … There’s nothing I’d rather do than get rid of my whole Twitter account.”
“But I’m able to get to, I guess, 186 million people, when you add up all the different accounts and add Facebook and Instagram. That’s a lot of people,” the president noted. “And that’s more than the media companies have, frankly, by a lot.”
Trump went on to say that if he sees a story he believes is false, he is able to “refute fake news” by posting on social media, where “the next day, or the next hour or the next minute, everybody is reading about it.”
Trump on Thursday signed an executive order to combat censorship by social media after Twitter recently added fact-checking labels to his posts.
“I have made clear my commitment to free and open debate on the internet,” Trump said in a statement announcing the executive order.
According to the White House, the executive order seeks “to uphold free and open debate on online platforms” and reflects the President’s commitment to “fighting back against the scourge of unaccountable and deceptive censorship of Americans online.”
“While online platforms denigrate our national discourse by disfavoring certain viewpoints, they are simultaneously profiting from disinformation spread by foreign governments,” the White House said in an announcement.
“Google, Facebook, and Twitter have all profited off the Chinese Communist Party’s efforts to subjugate their people and spread misinformation around the world,” it adds. “President Trump is committed to preserving the integrity and openness of our Nation’s discourse and upholding freedom of expression for all Americans.”
The order calls for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to create regulation that could strip social media companies of protection under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act if they “engage in deceptive or pretextual censorship.”
“Social media companies should not receive liability protections when they act as editors of content on their platform or take down lawful speech based on politics,” the White House announced.
The order would also prohibit federal agencies from spending advertising dollars on platforms that violate the First Amendment.
Publishers can be held liable for any content they post, while social media platforms are protected by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which states that “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.”
Attorney General William Barr said that the Section 230 provision was adopted 25 years ago, with the purpose to allow websites “to say that you’re not responsible for the content of that third-party information.”
The provision also “tried to encourage these companies to take down things like child pornography or human trafficking advertising … by saying, if you act to remove this kind of objectionable material, you won’t be liable for taking it down,” Barr said.
“Now it’s been completely stretched to allow what have become really behemoths who control a lot of the flow of information in our society to engage in censorship of that information and to act as editors and publishers of the material,” the attorney general noted.
“When they start censoring particular content including, in many cases, at the direction of foreign governments like Communist China, they become publishers and they shouldn’t be entitled to the same kind of shield that was set up earlier,” he added.
Bowen Xiao contributed to this report.