Biden rescinds Trump's anti-Section 230 executive order

Joe Biden behind the campaign podium with his arms spread open
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President Joe Biden has rescinded a Trump-era executive order that penalized social media companies for censoring users' web posts.

On Friday, Biden signed an executive order to rescind several Trump-era documents, including Executive Order 13925. That document, which former president Trump signed in May 2020, alleged political bias among social media companies that flagged content as inappropriate and accused them of quashing free speech by handpicking what Americans may say and read on the internet.

"This practice is fundamentally un-American and anti-democratic," Trump's executive order read. "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."

Trump's document clarified the White House's view on Section 230, arguing that it originally protected online platforms from "Good Samaritan Blocking.” This type of censorship blocked material that was clearly damaging, such as posts that could harm minors, it explained, adding that social media companies were now using the law beyond its original purpose.

EO 13925 ordered the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to consider taking action against any censorship it saw as unfair or deceptive. The Commission should also consider whether they were breaking the law, it added. It also set up a working group to consider creating and enforcement of state laws that could stop what it deemed inappropriate censorship.

President Biden's rolling back of the order would make it more difficult for former President Trump to force social media platforms to publish his tweets. Twitter flagged several Trump tweets before eventually deciding to ban him outright for inciting violence before the January 6 Capitol riots.

Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitch, and Spotify also suspended his accounts. Facebook's Oversight Board upheld his suspension earlier this month but demanded Facebook reassess the penalty within six months.

Rescinding Trump's executive order doesn't necessarily indicate the current administration’s soft approach to Section 230. Biden has repeatedly shown his disapproval of Section 230 laws and signaled his plans to revise it.

Danny Bradbury

Danny Bradbury has been a print journalist specialising in technology since 1989 and a freelance writer since 1994. He has written for national publications on both sides of the Atlantic and has won awards for his investigative cybersecurity journalism work and his arts and culture writing. 

Danny writes about many different technology issues for audiences ranging from consumers through to software developers and CIOs. He also ghostwrites articles for many C-suite business executives in the technology sector and has worked as a presenter for multiple webinars and podcasts.