President Trump is crafting an executive order on social media that could seek to curb legal protections for the industry, a broadside that comes amid his escalating fight this week with Twitter over the company's decision to fact-check his claims for the first time.
Fox News is told that, separately, the administration is working on a commission to look at alleged anti-conservative bias among big social media platforms.
The president teased an announcement Thursday morning, saying: “This will be a Big Day for Social Media and FAIRNESS!”
Fox News has confirmed that drafts of the executive order on social media would seek to curtail legal protections that shield social media companies from liability regarding what people post on their sites -- though the language is still in the works.
According to the drafts, the executive order would apply, at least in part, to section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which states that: “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”
Section 230, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, essentially protects online platforms against a range of laws that may otherwise be used to hold them legally responsible for what others say and do. The provision of the law created broad protection and allows for free speech on platforms.
It lets companies like Facebook and Twitter moderate content on their platforms as they see fit, while protecting them from lawsuits over content shared on them. An executive order, though, likely could not amend or repeal the section on its own.
The president is not alone in his criticism of Section 230. Former Vice President Biden, in a January interview with The New York Times, said that Section 230 “should be revoked, immediately should be revoked” because Facebook “is propagating falsehoods they know to be false, and we should be setting standards not unlike the Europeans are doing relative to privacy.”
In anticipation of the Trump order, the ACLU has already blasted the move.
"Much as he might wish otherwise, Donald Trump is not the president of Twitter. This order, if issued, would be a blatant and unconstitutional threat to punish social media companies that displease the president," ACLU Senior Legislative Counsel Kate Ruane said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Fox News has learned that the Trump administration has begun to develop a formal government commission to investigate anti-conservative bias among big social media platforms.
Sources told Fox News that appointees on the commission will come from within the federal government only, and would likely include representatives from the White House, Justice Department and Federal Communications Commission, and could also include representatives from the private sector.
Those officials from within the government, according to sources, could investigate alleged abuses, while private sector representatives could help to identify regulatory solutions to problems of political bias.
The executive order and the development of the commission come amid a fight between the president and Twitter, after the social media giant fact-checked one of his tweets for the first time this week.
The president, on Wednesday, warned social media companies that the federal government could “strongly regulate” or “close them down” if they continue to "silence conservative voices.”
“Republicans feel that Social Media Platforms totally silence conservatives voices,” Trump tweeted. “We will strongly regulate, or close them down, before we can ever allow this to happen. We saw what they attempted to do, and failed, in 2016. We can’t let a more sophisticated version of that happen again.”
The president added: “Just like we can’t let large scale Mail-In Ballots take root in our Country. It would be a free for all on cheating, forgery and the theft of Ballots. Whoever cheated the most would win. Likewise, Social Media. Clean up your act, NOW!!!!”
He later tweeted: "Twitter has now shown that everything we have been saying about them (and their other compatriots) is correct. Big action to follow!”
Trump’s warning Wednesday came after Twitter slapped a warning label on a Trump tweet referring to mail-in ballots Tuesday, cautioning readers that despite the president’s claims, “fact checkers” say there is “no evidence” that mail-in voting would increase fraud risks and that “experts say mail-in ballots are very rarely linked to voter fraud.”
The president, within minutes on Tuesday, accused Twitter of “interfering in the 2020 Presidential Election based on fact-checking by Fake News CNN and the Amazon Washington Post,” while adding that the platform is “completely stifling FREE SPEECH,” and vowing that “I, as President, will not allow that to happen.”
Twitter’s new warning label was issued even though a Twitter spokesperson acknowledged to Fox News that Trump’s tweet had not broken any of the platform’s rules, and even though some other experts have raised fraud concerns surrounding mail-in voting.
The warning label came after Trump tweeted: "There is NO WAY (ZERO!) that Mail-In Ballots will be anything less than substantially fraudulent. Mail boxes will be robbed, ballots will be forged & even illegally printed out & fraudulently signed. The Governor of California is sending Ballots to millions of people, anyone living in the state, no matter who they are or how they got there, will get one. That will be followed up with professionals telling all of these people, many of whom have never even thought of voting before, how, and for whom, to vote. This will be a Rigged Election. No way!!"
Twitter then appended a label to the bottom of the tweet reading, "Get the facts about mail-in ballots.”
Clicking that label brought readers to a paragraph reading: "On Tuesday, President Trump made a series of claims about potential voter fraud after California Governor Gavin Newsom announced an effort to expand mail-in voting in California during the COVID-19 pandemic. These claims are unsubstantiated, according to CNN, Washington Post and others. Experts say mail-in ballots are very rarely linked to voter fraud.”
Twitter went on to note in a "What to Know" section that "fact-checkers say there is no evidence that mail-in ballots are linked to voter fraud" and that "Trump falsely claimed that California will send mail-in ballots to 'anyone living in the state, no matter who they are or how they got there.' In fact, only registered voters will receive ballots.”
Twitter acknowledged Trump's tweet "is not in violation of the Twitter Rules as it does not directly try to dissuade people from voting — it does, however, contain misleading information about the voting process, specifically mail-in ballots, and we’re offering more context to the public.”
A Twitter spokesperson also told Fox News that Trump's tweets "contain potentially misleading information about voting processes and have been labeled to provide additional context around mail-in ballots," and that "this decision is in line with the approach we shared earlier this month."
Fox News Radio's Jon Decker and Fox News' Gregg Re contributed to this report.