On June 25, 2020, the US Department of Homeland Security has sent a duplicate letter to Apple, Alphabet Inc., Facebook, Twitter, and Snap asking them to stop people from using their platforms to organize, facilitate, or incite dangerous or deadly riots according to Law 360 website. A contradiction, as on May 28, 2020, US President Donald Trump signed an executive order entitled “Preventing Online Censorship”.
The letter comes to ask social media platforms to act as police. In fact, the letter that was sent to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is asking him to “do your part to put an end to violence and illegal activity spreading across our country by ensuring that your platforms are not used as a tool to organize, facilitate, or incite dangerous or deadly riots, in violation of state and local laws”.
The letter signed by acting Secretary US Department of Homeland Security Chad F. Wolf describes the power of social media as a weapon to perpetrate criminal activity. According to The Verge, Wolf’s letter is not a legal proceeding. In addition, it is not clear if social media platforms will take any actions against the posts since the letter is not forced by law.
However, it seems that Trump’s tweets would be excluded from the demand. Trump has been accusing social media platforms of biases and censorship. The Trump administration is asking to remove tweets that call for violence. Therefore, Twitter now has the right to remove Trump’s tweets including the one labelled as violating Twitter’s Rules against glorifying violence. “When the looting starts, the shooting starts,” said Trump when protests took place after Georges Floyd’s death on May 25, 2020.
Following Black live matters protests, the Trump administration asked social media companies to censor the users by removing posts that encourage committing violent acts including breaking curfew and toppling statues. On June 23, 2020, Trump tweeted “There will never be an “Autonomous Zone” in Washington, DC. As long as I’m your president. If they try, they will be met with serious force!” This tweet was labeled as “violating Twitter Rules about abusive behavior”. Trump was angry and he took urgent decisions trying to remove Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act described as the 26 words that created the internet.
A Twitter spokesperson told Business Insider that the company is planning to respond. On the other hand, Apple, Google, Facebook, and Snapchat representatives did not respond to requests for comments.
The letter includes a crucial sentence for social media platforms “It is up to you to decide how to handle content on your platforms”. An irony as this comes after Trump’s efforts to change Section 230 aiming to remove social media immunity over user’s behaviors.