President Joe Biden should rescind a dangerous and unconstitutional Executive Order issued by President Trump that continues to threaten internet users’ ability to obtain accurate and truthful information online, six organizations wrote in a letter sent to the president on Wednesday.
The organizations, Rock The Vote, Voto Latino, Common Cause, Free Press, Decoding Democracy, and the Center for Democracy & Technology, pressed Biden to remove his predecessor’s “Executive Order on Preventing Online Censorship” because “it is a drastic assault on free speech designed to punish online platforms that fact-checked President Trump.”
The organizations filed lawsuits to strike down the Executive Order last year, with Rock The Vote, Voto Latino, Common Cause, Free Press, and Decoding Democracy’s challenge currently on appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The Center for Democracy & Technology’s appeal is currently pending in the U.S. Court of Appeal for the D.C. Circuit. (Cooley LLP, Protect Democracy, and EFF represent the plaintiffs in Rock The Vote v. Trump.)
As the letter explains, Trump issued the unconstitutional Executive Order in retaliation for Twitter fact-checking May 2020 tweets spreading false information about mail-in voting. The Executive Order issued two days later sought to undermine a key law protecting internet users’ speech, 47 U.S.C. § 230 (“Section 230”) and punish online platforms, including by directing federal agencies to review and potentially stop advertising on social media and kickstarting a federal rulemaking to re-interpret Section 230. From the letter:
His actions made clear that the full force of the federal government would be brought down on those whose speech he did not agree with, in an effort to coerce adoption of his own views and to prevent the dissemination of accurate information about voting.
As the letter notes, despite President Biden eliminating other Executive Orders issued by Trump, the order targeting online services remains active. Biden’s inaction is troubling because the Executive Order “threatens democracy and the voting rights of people who have been underrepresented for generations,” the letter states.
“Thus, your Administration is in the untenable position of defending an unconstitutional order that was issued with the clear purpose of chilling accurate information about the 2020 election and undermining public trust in the results,” the letter continues.
The letter concludes:
Eliminating this egregiously unconstitutional hold-over from the prior Administration vindicates the Constitution’s protections for both online services and the users who rely on them for accurate, truthful information about voting rights.