WASHINGTON D.C. —­ Following months of increasingly angry complaints from Republicans about social media companies’ alleged bias against conservatives, the Trump Administration is drafting an Executive Order on the subject. CNN has just published a leaked summary of the draft order, which would take the extraordinary step of directing two independent agencies, the Federal Communications Commission and Federal Trade Commission, to force social media sites to operate “neutrally.”

Trump’s proposed executive order would transform the FCC and FTC from consumer protection agencies into regulators of online speech,” said Berin Szóka, President of TechFreedom. “Ironically, the same people screaming about ‘censorship’ by private companies would empower regulators to decide what kinds of online speech should and shouldn’t be taken down. That Republicans, after decades of fighting government meddling in broadcasting, now want their own Fairness Doctrine for the Internet is staggeringly hypocritical.”

After denouncing President Obama for urging the FCC to adopt the strongest possible net neutrality rules, will Republicans now cheer as President Trump dictates how two independent agencies should enforce a bizarro version of net neutrality?” asked Szoka. “This order raises a host of thorny administrative law questions, and is certain to wind up in litigation. But as with the Muslim travel ban, fighting about this in court, win or lose, would at least keep the fight going, which seems to be the White House’s primary objective anyway. If they lose in court, they’ll just insist that Congress must pass Sen. Josh Hawley’s bill to effectively mandate neutrality for social media companies. With any luck, as with the idea of nationalizing 5G networks, the Administration will realize this is a door that shouldn’t be opened — and simply abandon the idea.”

Brian Fung’s CNN story quotes Szóka: “It makes no sense to involve the FCC here. They have rule-making authority, but no jurisdiction — they can’t possibly want to be involved. It would be an impossible position.” 

In testimony before the House Judiciary Committee last year at a hearing on anti-conservative bias, Szóka explained in detail the parallels between the Fairness Doctrine and proposals to amend Section 230 to require political neutrality.


We can be reached for comment at media@techfreedom.org. See more of our work on free speech and Section 230 on our website, including:

  • Coalition letter by 27 civil society organizations and 53 academics a set of seven principles to guide conversation about amending Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996
  • Our statement on Sen. Hawley’s proposed legislation on regulating the Internet
  • Our op-ed “Some conservatives need a First Amendment refresher”
  • Our letter to AG Session “DOJ Inquiry re Tech Companies Bias is Misguided”
  • Our blogpost “Reality Check for Trump and Republicans Crying ‘Bias’”!
  • President Berin Szóka’s testimony before the House Judiciary Committee on the filtering practices of social media platforms
  • Our statement on the passage of SESTA
  • Our statement on the takedown of Backpage and its implications for Section 230 and recent sex trafficking legislation
  • Tech Policy Podcast #226: The Fairness Doctrine: Next Generation
  • Tech Policy Podcast #214: Information Intermediaries in a Nutshell