Donald Trump is expected to sign an executive order redefining the legal protections given to social media platforms.
It means platforms such as Facebook and Twitter could be sued if they are judged to “deceptively” block posts.
The draft of the executive order says social networks are engaged in “selective censorship”.
Mr Trump has regularly accused social-media platforms of stifling or censoring conservative voices.
Trump tweeted ahead of the signing.
This will be a Big Day for Social Media and FAIRNESS!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 28, 2020
What is the executive order?
The order sets out to clarify the Communications Decency Act, a US law that offers online platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube legal protection in certain situations.
Under Section 230 of the law, social networks are not generally held responsible for content posted by their users but can engage in “good-Samaritan blocking”, such as removing content that is obscene, harassing or violent.
And the draft of the executive order points out this legal immunity does not apply if a social network edits content posted by its users.
It also says “deceptive” blocking of posts, including removing a post for reasons other than those described in a website’s terms of service, should not be offered immunity.
Republican senator Marco Rubio is among those arguing the platforms take on the role of a “publisher” when they add fact-check labels to specific posts.
“The law still protects social media companies like Twitter because they are considered forums not publishers,” Mr Rubio said.
“But if they have now decided to exercise an editorial role like a publisher, then they should no longer be shielded from liability and treated as publishers under the law.”
The draft of the executive order also calls for:
– the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to spell out what type of content blocking will be considered deceptive, pretextual or inconsistent with a service provider’s terms and conditions
– a review of government advertising on social-media sites and whether those platforms impose viewpoint-based restrictions
– the re-establishment of the White House “tech bias reporting tool” that lets citizens report unfair treatment by social networks