More petulance than policy

President Donald Trump’s preposterous executive order, attempting to regulate speech on the internet, actually could do some good. It would force social media platforms to rein in . . . Trump.

After Trump added a vicious smear against a dead woman and falsehoods about mail-in ballot fraud to his torrent of lies on Twitter, the company added a notice to several of his tweets advising that fact checks were available.

That caused Trump to froth “censorship!” even though his tweets were not edited.

Trump’s order would strip civil liability protection from social media platforms. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 holds that platforms can’t be sued for defamation if they simply post the words of others.

Trump aims to cause financial harm to the platforms. But he apparently has not considered that exposing them to liability would cause them to be more cautious about what they post and, given his talent for mendacity, his tweets likely would be among the first to go.

His assertion about Lori Klausutis, a young aide to former Rep. Joe Scarborough who died in a district office in Florida in 2001, easily could be construed as deliberately causing emotional distress to her family. Police found no foul play and a medical examiner concluded that she died from head trauma in a fall induced by mitral valve disease, but Trump dredged up unfounded rumors and spread them on Twitter.

Trump’s order is a waste of paper. It’s more petulance than policy. The last thing he wants is incentive for social media platforms to act like the legitimate news outlets he so detests.

* Guest editorial from The Citizen’s Voice in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.


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