President Trump’s social media order will endanger voting rights, new lawsuit claims

A handful of voter advocacy groups filed a lawsuit against President Donald Trump’s social media executive order on Thursday, according to Protocol. The order was signed after Twitter fact-checked false tweets by Trump on mail-in voting earlier this year, and Thursday’s lawsuit seeks to ensure platforms can counter voting misinformation online.

In their complaint, organizations including Rock the Vote and Free Press argue that the order has the potential to jeopardize the rights of voters who access social media platforms for information on mail-in voting. Thursday’s lawsuit follows a separate lawsuit that was filed in June by the Center for Democracy and Technology, which argued that the Trump administration’s Section 230 order violates the First Amendment.

“Now, beyond focusing on our core mission to promote participation in our democracy, Rock the Vote has been burdened with the unfortunate and absurd task of correcting misinformation, lies shared by government officials, which can and should be fact-checked by online platforms,” Rock the Vote president Carolyn DeWitt said in a statement.

In May, Trump signed the executive order targeting tech companies like Twitter after the platform fact-checked two of his tweets about mail-in voting for the first time earlier that week. As the general election nears, Trump has repeatedly made false claims about mail-in voting leading to voter fraud. It’s these false statements that Twitter fact-checked and why the voting advocacy groups filed their lawsuit Thursday. Earlier this month, The New York Times reported that Facebook was also preparing for a situation in which Trump interferes with November’s final vote tally.

The order has the potential to pare back platform liability protections under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Section 230 gives social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook broad immunity from liability for the content users post on their platforms. The order called for the Federal Communications Commission to reinterpret the law and allow the Federal Trade Commission to create a tool for users to report online bias.

In July, the Commerce Department officially filed its petition to the FCC calling for the agency to reinterpret the law. “It has long been the policy of the United States to foster a robust marketplace of ideas on the Internet and the free flow of information around the world,” Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said in a statement at the time. “President Trump is committed to protecting the rights of all Americans to express their views and not face unjustified restrictions or selective censorship from a handful of powerful companies.”

Shortly after, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced that the agency would be seeking public comment on the petition for rule-making filed by the Commerce Department. The commenting period is set to end on September 17th.

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