ALEC Statement on President’s Social Media Executive Order
After a week marked by protests, President Trump signed an executive order to regulate the promotion of free speech and debate on social media platforms. Below is our full statement.
The First Amendment protects all Americans from government regulations that would stifle the right to free speech. As private companies, social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook are also protected from government-imposed speech restrictions. As the ALEC Resolution Protecting Online Platforms and Services recognizes, “the First Amendment restricts the government from regulating speech or restricting the publishing rights of online platforms or services, including the right to curate content.”
Content moderation is an inexact art. Companies will make mistakes, but they should make their own rules. When platforms fail in spectacular fashion, the answer is not regulation. Rather, public policy should promote competition and innovation, as is detailed in the ALEC Statement of Principles on Online Speech.
The President’s recent executive order seeks to promote free speech and debate through regulation of social media companies. But it does so, in part, by narrowing interpretations of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. This law allows companies to host user generated content while ensuring those users are held responsible for the words they create. As noted in the Statement of Principles on Online Speech:
“Congress enacted Section 230 to encourage online platforms to experiment with ways to empower users to host content — and the law has succeeded spectacularly. Today’s Internet simply would not exist if websites were liable for all user content they hosted. Congress also recognized that holding online intermediaries responsible for user speech would actually create a perverse incentive to do less self-policing, or none at all. Eroding Section 230’s Good Samaritan immunity will backfire.”
ALEC has been at the forefront of the platform bias, online speech, and Section 230 debates in state legislatures for years. No content moderation process is perfect, and rather than injecting government regulation, platforms should be allowed to experiment.