Executive Order on Preventing Online Censorship | The White House

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1.  Policy.  Free speech is the bedrock of American democracy.  Our Founding Fathers protected this sacred right with the First Amendment to the Constitution.  The freedom to express and debate ideas is the foundation for all of our rights as a free people.

In a country that has long cherished the freedom of expression, we cannot allow a limited number of online platforms to hand pick the speech that Americans may access and convey on the internet.  This practice is fundamentally un-American and anti-democratic.  When large, powerful social media companies censor opinions with which they disagree, they exercise a dangerous power.  They cease functioning as passive bulletin boards, and ought to be viewed and treated as content creators.

The growth of online platforms in recent years raises important questions about applying the ideals of the First Amendment to modern communications technology.  Today, many Americans follow the news, stay in touch with friends and family, and share their views on current events through social media and other online platforms.  As a result, these platforms function in many ways as a 21st century equivalent of the public square.

Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube wield immense, if not unprecedented, power to shape the interpretation of public events; to censor, delete, or disappear information; and to control what people see or do not see.

As President, I have made clear my commitment to free and open debate on the internet. Such debate is just as important online as it is in our universities, our town halls, and our homes.  It is essential to sustaining our democracy.

Online platforms are engaging in selective censorship that is harming our national discourse.  Tens of thousands of Americans have reported, among other troubling behaviors, online platforms “flagging” content as inappropriate, even though it does not violate any stated terms of service; making unannounced and unexplained changes to company policies that have the effect of disfavoring certain viewpoints; and deleting content and entire accounts with no warning, no rationale, and no recourse.

Twitter now selectively decides to place a warning label on certain tweets in a manner that clearly reflects political bias.  As has been reported, Twitter seems never to have placed such a label on another politician’s tweet.  As recently as last week, Representative Adam Schiff was continuing to mislead his followers by peddling the long-disproved Russian Collusion Hoax, and Twitter did not flag those tweets.  Unsurprisingly, its officer in charge of so-called ‘Site Integrity’ has flaunted his political bias in his own tweets.

At the same time online platforms are invoking inconsistent, irrational, and groundless justifications to censor or otherwise restrict Americans’ speech here at home, several online platforms are profiting from and promoting the aggression and disinformation spread by foreign governments like China.  One United States company, for example, created a search engine for the Chinese Communist Party that would have blacklisted searches for “human rights,” hid data unfavorable to the Chinese Communist Party, and tracked users determined appropriate for surveillance.  It also established research partnerships in China that provide direct benefits to the Chinese military.  Other companies have accepted advertisements paid for by the Chinese government that spread false information about China’s mass imprisonment of religious minorities, thereby enabling these abuses of human rights.  They have also amplified China’s propaganda abroad, including by allowing Chinese government officials to use their platforms to spread misinformation regarding the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, and to undermine pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.

As a Nation, we must foster and protect diverse viewpoints in today’s digital communications environment where all Americans can and should have a voice.  We must seek transparency and accountability from online platforms, and encourage standards and tools to protect and preserve the integrity and openness of American discourse and freedom of expression.

Sec2.  Protections Against Online Censorship.  (a)  It is the policy of the United States to foster clear ground rules promoting free and open debate on the internet.  Prominent among the ground rules governing that debate is the immunity from liability created by section 230(c) of the Communications Decency Act (section 230(c)).  47 U.S.C. 230(c).  It is the policy of the United States that the scope of that immunity should be clarified: the immunity should not extend beyond its text and purpose to provide protection for those who purport to provide users a forum for free and open speech, but in reality use their power over a vital means of communication to engage in deceptive or pretextual actions stifling free and open debate by censoring certain viewpoints.

Section 230(c) was designed to address early court decisions holding that, if an online platform restricted access to some content posted by others, it would thereby become a “publisher” of all the content posted on its site for purposes of torts such as defamation.  As the title of section 230(c) makes clear, the provision provides limited liability “protection” to a provider of an interactive computer service (such as an online platform) that engages in “‘Good Samaritan’ blocking” of harmful content.  In particular, the Congress sought to provide protections for online platforms that attempted to protect minors from harmful content and intended to ensure that such providers would not be discouraged from taking down harmful material.  The provision was also intended to further the express vision of the Congress that the internet is a “forum for a true diversity of political discourse.”  47 U.S.C. 230(a)(3).  The limited protections provided by the statute should be construed with these purposes in mind.

In particular, subparagraph (c)(2) expressly addresses protections from “civil liability” and specifies that an interactive computer service provider may not be made liable “on account of” its decision in “good faith” to restrict access to content that it considers to be “obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing or otherwise objectionable.”  It is the policy of the United States to ensure that, to the maximum extent permissible under the law, this provision is not distorted to provide liability protection for online platforms that — far from acting in “good faith” to remove objectionable content — instead engage in deceptive or pretextual actions (often contrary to their stated terms of service) to stifle viewpoints with which they disagree.  Section 230 was not intended to allow a handful of companies to grow into titans controlling vital avenues for our national discourse under the guise of promoting open forums for debate, and then to provide those behemoths blanket immunity when they use their power to censor content and silence viewpoints that they dislike.  When an interactive computer service provider removes or restricts access to content and its actions do not meet the criteria of subparagraph (c)(2)(A), it is engaged in editorial conduct.  It is the policy of the United States that such a provider should properly lose the limited liability shield of subparagraph (c)(2)(A) and be exposed to liability like any traditional editor and publisher that is not an online provider.

(b)  To advance the policy described in subsection (a) of this section, all executive departments and agencies should ensure that their application of section 230(c) properly reflects the narrow purpose of the section and take all appropriate actions in this regard.  In addition, within 60 days of the date of this order, the Secretary of Commerce (Secretary), in consultation with the Attorney General, and acting through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), shall file a petition for rulemaking with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requesting that the FCC expeditiously propose regulations to clarify:

(i) the interaction between subparagraphs (c)(1) and (c)(2) of section 230, in particular to clarify and determine the circumstances under which a provider of an interactive computer service that restricts access to content in a manner not specifically protected by subparagraph (c)(2)(A) may also not be able to claim protection under subparagraph (c)(1), which merely states that a provider shall not be treated as a publisher or speaker for making third-party content available and does not address the provider’s responsibility for its own editorial decisions;

(ii)  the conditions under which an action restricting access to or availability of material is not “taken in good faith” within the meaning of subparagraph (c)(2)(A) of section 230, particularly whether actions can be “taken in good faith” if they are:

(A)  deceptive, pretextual, or inconsistent with a provider’s terms of service; or

(B)  taken after failing to provide adequate notice, reasoned explanation, or a meaningful opportunity to be heard; and

(iii)  any other proposed regulations that the NTIA concludes may be appropriate to advance the policy described in subsection (a) of this section.

Sec3.  Protecting Federal Taxpayer Dollars from Financing Online Platforms That Restrict Free Speech.  (a)  The head of each executive department and agency (agency) shall review its agency’s Federal spending on advertising and marketing paid to online platforms.  Such review shall include the amount of money spent, the online platforms that receive Federal dollars, and the statutory authorities available to restrict their receipt of advertising dollars.

(b)  Within 30 days of the date of this order, the head of each agency shall report its findings to the Director of the Office of Management and Budget.

(c)  The Department of Justice shall review the viewpoint-based speech restrictions imposed by each online platform identified in the report described in subsection (b) of this section and assess whether any online platforms are problematic vehicles for government speech due to viewpoint discrimination, deception to consumers, or other bad practices.

Sec4.  Federal Review of Unfair or Deceptive Acts or Practices.  (a)  It is the policy of the United States that large online platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook, as the critical means of promoting the free flow of speech and ideas today, should not restrict protected speech.  The Supreme Court has noted that social media sites, as the modern public square, “can provide perhaps the most powerful mechanisms available to a private citizen to make his or her voice heard.”  Packingham v. North Carolina, 137 S. Ct. 1730, 1737 (2017).  Communication through these channels has become important for meaningful participation in American democracy, including to petition elected leaders.  These sites are providing an important forum to the public for others to engage in free expression and debate.  CfPruneYard Shopping Center v. Robins, 447 U.S. 74, 85-89 (1980).

(b)  In May of 2019, the White House launched a Tech Bias Reporting tool to allow Americans to report incidents of online censorship.  In just weeks, the White House received over 16,000 complaints of online platforms censoring or otherwise taking action against users based on their political viewpoints.  The White House will submit such complaints received to the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

(c)  The FTC shall consider taking action, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, to prohibit unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce, pursuant to section 45 of title 15, United States Code.  Such unfair or deceptive acts or practice may include practices by entities covered by section 230 that restrict speech in ways that do not align with those entities’ public representations about those practices.

(d)  For large online platforms that are vast arenas for public debate, including the social media platform Twitter, the FTC shall also, consistent with its legal authority, consider whether complaints allege violations of law that implicate the policies set forth in section 4(a) of this order.  The FTC shall consider developing a report describing such complaints and making the report publicly available, consistent with applicable law.

Sec5.  State Review of Unfair or Deceptive Acts or Practices and Anti-Discrimination Laws.  (a)  The Attorney General shall establish a working group regarding the potential enforcement of State statutes that prohibit online platforms from engaging in unfair or deceptive acts or practices.  The working group shall also develop model legislation for consideration by legislatures in States where existing statutes do not protect Americans from such unfair and deceptive acts and practices. The working group shall invite State Attorneys General for discussion and consultation, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law.

(b) Complaints described in section 4(b) of this order will be shared with the working group, consistent with applicable law. The working group shall also collect publicly available information regarding the following:

(i) increased scrutiny of users based on the other users they choose to follow, or their interactions with other users;

(ii) algorithms to suppress content or users based on indications of political alignment or viewpoint;

(iii) differential policies allowing for otherwise impermissible behavior, when committed by accounts associated with the Chinese Communist Party or other anti-democratic associations or governments;

(iv) reliance on third-party entities, including contractors, media organizations, and individuals, with indicia of bias to review content; and

(v) acts that limit the ability of users with particular viewpoints to earn money on the platform compared with other users similarly situated.

Sec6.  Legislation.  The Attorney General shall develop a proposal for Federal legislation that would be useful to promote the policy objectives of this order.

Sec7.  Definition.  For purposes of this order, the term “online platform” means any website or application that allows users to create and share content or engage in social networking, or any general search engine.

Sec8.  General Provisions. (a)  Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(i)    the authority granted by law to an executive department or agency, or the head thereof; or

(ii)   the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

(b)  This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(c)  This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

Source: Executive Order on Preventing Online Censorship | The White House

OWS Week 4/19/12 – Occupy Marines, Occupy Wisconsin, Jesse Jackson Jr., May Day

This episode of the show looks at the US veterans’ contribution to the 99ers and their participation in the movement.

It contains an exclusive statement from Occupy Marines made by both active duty and off duty soldiers. It also contains a review of the week actions including the Bank of America protests and arrests in New York and Washington.

The final segment includes preparations for the Mayday protests in which more than 40 Occupy groups are getting ready to take part in alongside dozens of workers.

 

OWS Week 4/11/12, Occupy DC/DC Now, Chicago Spring, Florida protests

Press TV’s new program; ‘OWS Week’ highlights 7 days of the protest movement’s happenings as viewed from American protesters’ eyes. The program also examines the wide range of social issues addressed by the ‘occupy’ movement in the US.

This episode of the show covers a range of actions across America. They included the Occupy DC/DC Now; a protest march in Washington against student fee hikes. Thousands of 99ers joined the transit Union workers in 20 US cities including New York and Boston. The Chicago Spring rallies against social, economic and political injustices were called to “educate, inspire and unite.”

And in Tampa Florida protests hit the “State of the City 2012” mayoral address against the coming Republican National Convention.

Time Warp: 70’s Protest Film, “The Way The Eagle Sh*ts”

[…I fucking love the internet. ~ Gabrielle]

As the OWS movement has helped move the national dialogue to income inequality, corporate power, and economic justice with its chant of “We are the 99%,” we received a request from an old acquaintance of Marc’s father, Al Levin, who remembered a short film he did back in the mid Seventies, “THE WAY THE EAGLE SHITS.”

He wondered if we could get him a copy of the film so he could show it to his local OCCUPY movement. He felt Al’s political rant was prescient and more timely now than ever. 
Here it is, Al Levin’s “THE WAY THE EAGLE SHITS – pass it on.

Occupy Journalism Q & A with TRC’s Gabrielle Price

[A question/answer session from an anonymous journalism student from Sweden for Occupy.  We both agreed it would be good to share this for all the young journalists and budding occupy media teams.  So, here you go.  I was honored to be asked to participate.]

Why did you decide to pursue a career in Journalism?

I wrote for a school newspaper in Jr. High and was curious about journalism then and after several creative writing courses in High School – but I didn’t actively pursue it until I was well into my 30’s – mostly because it flushed well with my photography.  They say a picture is worth a thousand words but many of the photographs I took at the time were art photos and descriptions came with them as a matter of course.

My actual career background is in the administrative field [much of that was correspondence and research]. The people I worked for liked the manner and style of my writing and I was highly praised for my ability as a researcher.

After my last administrative job was phased out, I actively pursued photojournalism as a means of sharing information.  Being a politically active book nerd, my skills simply married well with journalism.  I took the leap with my first blog and received a lot of good feedback.  Later, I started a music project which garnered some international attention for my writing and since then, I managed to cross the music writing over into activism.  Two things I am very passionate about.  This started me down a path of deeper research and intelligence gathering – and the study of journalism in history.

In many ways, journalism pursued me.  I’m also a Gemini – ruled by Mercury – the sign of communication and information.  Though, many don’t put stock in those things, I can attest to that being a strong personality trait.

Are you glad that you did?  Do you have any regrets?

This is an interesting question seeing as I feel like I had no choice but to write.  Like an artist creates, a writer writes.  I’m glad my work helps others and in this day and age of corporate news – it feels like my duty to continue.  I’m honored to witness history as it unfolds and try my best to report factually and objectively – which was near impossible to do in political writing.  The deeper I researched, the more I learned and it became a personal awakening process.  For that, I am also glad and couldn’t regret a thing.  It’s been as much a spiritual journey as a professional one.  Seeking to uncover the truth, by it’s very nature, is a spiritual undertaking.

It’s impossible to regret growth as a human being – it is experience that makes the writer, after all.  Though there are few posts by me on TRC, I like sharing others work.  I’m working on a book, building a radio station as well as news videos, which doesn’t lend itself well to news writing at the moment.  There are a lot of great reporters and writers out there and I like to share the ones that impress me.

What successes have you realized as a result of your career choice?

Mostly accolades and the honor of seeing my work alongside some of my personal heroes in the field.  Also using my work to help others less fortunate or that do not have a voice.  Success is a personal reflection because it is defined differently by an individual rather than what society deems successful.  For me personally, I have printed letters and emails framed from other writers and artists I admire – and have met one of them last year who was quite a mentor for me.  So I guess I feel my successes are in my growth and the personal connections with like minded people.

This is also a mixed blessing as some writers may not be socially in tune or egotistical which is a turn off.  But that’s life and all part and parcel of the experience.  That doesn’t make a person’s work any less valuable a contribution.  I mean, Hunter Thompson may have been considered an asshole by many – but his writing put Rolling Stone on the map, in my opinion.

What have been your greatest challenges (or what are your greatest challenges now)?

Money.  I think most writers would say the same.  The corporate media machine and technology has lulled a lot of people into a false sense of what journalism is or should be.  It does get a bad rap.  I feel that is changing however, so honestly, it’s an exciting time to be involved in media as much as it is precarious.   There are many who probably couldn’t hack it and aside from money, the greatest challenge for me was cutting through my own cognitive dissonance in order to report without mainstream bias.  This is much harder than it sounds simply because the mainstream has done it’s job well.  Being a little ‘gonzo’ helps.Hunter Thompson remains one of my favorite writers and he said that it is near impossible for regular people to get good information during wartime.  This makes the job of a journalist much harder as well.  Meeting and overcoming challenges to deliver honest reporting is pretty much how any journalist worth their salt will keep their integrity and the loyalty of their readers [or viewers].  Even when the political climate makes them fickle…and fickle is being kind.  It’s a tough audience out there right now.I’ve always admired Keith Olbermann’s ability to maintain loyal listeners.   I’m not sure European readers will know who he is – but he was on a cable station called Current which is owned in part by Al Gore.  He was fired abruptly two weeks ago and was one of the only remaining voices on [pseudo] mainstream that supported and reported on Occupy.  I hope he gives Current a Gonzo bitch-slap so hard that Al’s wife Tipper will feel it.Don’t get me started on Tipper.

Are there any “unknown” pieces or aspects of such a career that might be helpful for an outsider to consider?

Be prepared to handle the truth when you find it – and be prepared to tell it to others thoughtfully not cautiously. The duty of any journalist is to report what IS – to the best of their ability with the information available.  ‘Available’ does not mean you don’t have to research.  Dig until you are satisfied in your own mind and heart that you have discovered something of value to your readers.  It is ultimately about them.Lastly, if you want to improve a thing [your writing, the political landscape, the press] be critical of it.  In order for the art of journalism to survive corporate control – it needs more critics not suck ups.  This means you need to have a thick skin and an iron constitution.  Journalism is not for the weak of heart.  The old saying that the pen is mightier than the sword is true – words are very powerful things – wield them with respect for the truth and you will never injure yourself.Others may get hurt, however – but if a small few are hurting the 99%, the environment or our democracy – being critical of them is just helping karma along.  It is way past due for a nudge.

Any personal advice or last comments?

Keep a copy of the First Amendment where you write.  I recommend watching the movie “Good Night and Good Luck” at least twice to understand why one of the highest awards for American journalism has Edward R. Murrow’s name on it.  If we were all half as good as he was – we could mop the floor with MSM here.  That time is coming because this economy is seeing major publications laying people off.  Citizen press and underground media need to get their foundations established now – there is a window and I’m unsure how long it will be open.  Connect with like-minded thinkers, photographers, videographers and not worry about trying to “make it” in a dying corporate media culture.  Leave that old cold war corpse to rot…it’s time to get on with the business of telling people the truth.US media is about as useful as a stars and stripes band aid on compound fracture.