Group Backed By Google, Facebook, and Twitter Sues Donald Trump

The Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT), who is backed by the likes of Google, Facebook, and Twitter, has sued US President Donald Trump over his executive order.

Late last month, we brought you news that US president, Donald Trump, has signed an executive order trying to kill Section 230. The executive order, unlike the response with COVID-19, came quickly. It was in response to Twitter fact-checking two of the presidents tweets about mail-in ballots. The retaliatory measure was seen by many as being both petty and legally confusing. This is because if platforms are legally liable for the content posted by their users, it would make them, at the very least, police the content even more rather than less which is supposedly what the executive order is about.

While the executive order is legally questionable on the enforcement side of things (and whether it really even means anything at all), it is, nevertheless a threat to pretty much the entire online tech sector. So, it is little surprise that no one is leaving anything to chance here when it comes to any hint of an existential threat. A group known as the CDT (Center for Democracy and Technology) is suing the US president over the executive order. The group is backed by powerful players including Google, Facebook, and Twitter. From The Washington Post:

A Washington-based tech group supported by Facebook, Google and Twitter filed a lawsuit against President Trump on Tuesday, alleging that his executive order targeting social media giants threatens to “curtail and chill constitutionally protected speech” during the presidential election.

In its lawsuit, the CDT said the White House had run afoul of the First Amendment, which “prohibits government officials from using government power to retaliate against an individual or entity for engaging in protected speech.” Even though Trump’s order has not taken full effect, the CDT said the mere existence of the policy could “chill” speech, undermining efforts by Facebook, Google and Twitter to ensure that their platforms are used responsibly during the presidential race.

“We see the executive order as very clear retaliation that’s designed to deter social media companies from fighting misinformation and voter suppression,” said Alexandra Givens, the leader of the CDT. The group filed its lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, asking it to invalidate the whole of the order.

Facebook and Google declined to comment. Twitter praised the lawsuit in an unsigned tweet, while blasting the president’s order as “reactionary and politicized.” All three companies have given money to the CDT in the past, the group’s public statements indicate.

One thing is for sure, this is shaping up to be one of the biggest fights between tech and the US government. We, of course, have seen bigger fights. An example is the US warrantless wiretapping case. Nevertheless, this is definitely a case where the tech sector is drawing a line in the sand and saying, “let’s go”. With stakes potentially being so high, who could blame them?

We’ll continue to monitor for any developments in this case.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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