A draft of President Donald Trump’s social media executive order shows it would create disturbing structures that could allow the President of the United States to personally target social media companies he feels are taking action against his supporters, enable his supporters to report that action directly to the White House, and empower the Attorney General of the United States to collect publicly available “watch-lists” of social media users that monitor not only their online activities but their offline activities as well.
The draft is not final, but both the speed with which it will be signed and reports show it likely has not gone through interagency review, as CNN’s Brian Fung, who calls it “hastily conceived,” notes.
NEW: The White House did not consult the FCC on a forthcoming executive order pertaining to social media companies, according to a person briefed on the matter.
This suggests the draft order has not gone through the normal interagency review process.
— Brian Fung (@b_fung) May 27, 2020
Reuters has confirmed a draft of the executive order, which President Trump has promised he will sign today. They report it “requires the Attorney General to establish a working group including state attorneys general that will examine the enforcement of state laws that prohibit online platforms from engaging in unfair and deceptive acts.”
The order directs the White House Office of Digital Strategy to turn back on the White House Tech Bias Reporting Tool, which the Trump administration created in 2019. It is currently dormant. The tool would be used to collect complaints of what social media users feel is online censorship by tech companies. Those complaints would be submitted by the White House to the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission.
The White House Office of Digital Strategy was not designed for that purpose. It was created for the sole purpose of crafting and promoting the President’s agenda online, not for acting as a conduit to enable spying. The Office of Digital Strategy is headed by a former Heritage Foundation employee.
Reuters also reports Barr is to create “working group” that “will also monitor or create watch-lists of users based on their interactions with content or other users.” That reporting appears to be inaccurate, based on NCRM’s reading, and reporting by other outlets.
NBC News technology correspondent Jacob Ward reports the draft “directs the White House Office of Digital Strategy to collect publicly available information regarding ‘watch-lists’ of users based on their interaction with content or users’ and ‘monitoring users based on their activity off the platform.'”
An ABC News report appears to confirm that reading.
But Barr would be directed to create the group, which would include hand-picked state attorneys general.
The mere existence of any such lists, whether or not they are created by Barr or identified by the DOJ, can easily be politicized.
Stanford Cyber Policy Center’s Platform Regulation Director says this is a copy of the draft. She has annotated it as well:
— Daphne Keller (@daphnehk) May 28, 2020