The White House is poised to issue an executive order addressing Big Tech censorship against conservatives, insiders say, paying lip service to free speech even while insisting platforms filter online ‘hate’ and ‘extremism’.
“If the internet is going to be presented as this egalitarian platform and most of Twitter is liberal cesspools of venom, then at least the president wants some fairness in the system,” a White House official familiar with the matter told Politico.
The order suggests the president is serious about the “policy solutions” he called for following last month’s social media summit, which saw him meet with conservative “influencers” to discuss what many on the Right believe is politically-motivated censorship. While the order reportedly addresses other topics besides tech bias and is not expected to be issued immediately, Big Tech’s censorship appears to be on Trump’s mind – he announced he is “watching Google very closely” after a Google employee came forward earlier this week to warn that “bias at every level of the organization” has motivated the company to plot a massive psychological operation ahead of the 2020 election.
But Trump in the role of free speech crusader appears to conflict with the president’s insistence earlier this week that tech platforms “develop tools that can detect mass shooters before they strike.” Trump even said his administration would help Big Tech identify “red flags” signaling a dangerous individual, and has invited Big Tech players to a roundtable discussion on countering violent extremism on Friday.
The White House official familiar with the executive order saw no contradiction, however, claiming social media should “monitor the content on their sites to ensure that people aren’t threatened with violence or worse, and at the same time … provide a platform that protects and cherishes freedom and free speech, but at the same time does not allow it to descend into a platform for hate.”
The guests at Trump’s social media summit could have told him that the supposedly “hateful” content censored by Big Tech is often quite benign (“Learn to code”) or merely political (recent video of protesters calling for violence outside Senator Mitch McConnell’s home). Even 8chan, so heavily demonized in the wake of the El Paso shooting as a supposed hater’s paradise, is mostly harmless memes and other image-board fodder – yet it was booted from multiple servers after the shooting by companies afraid to appear to be supporting the ever-elusive “hate.”
At some point, Trump will have to decide whether he wants to push the internet in the direction of free speech or to allow Big Tech to continue erecting the barriers that have unilaterally declared an increasing number of ideas off-limits. Outfitting those platforms with the ability to identify and tag “pre-criminals” is a major step away from the free and open internet his base (and perhaps even himself) believe he supports.
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