May 28, 2020
Donald Trump Speech Transcript Signing Executive Order on Social Media Sites
Donald Trump held a press conference where he announced his executive order on social media companies, after being “fact-checked” by Twitter on some of his tweets this week. Read the full transcript here.
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Donald Trump: (00:00)
… it’s not good. A small handful of powerful social media monopolies controls a vast portion of all public and private communications in the United States, and we know what they are. We don’t have to name them. We’re going to give you a complete listing. We’re going to give you a signed copy of what I’m going to be signing in a couple of minutes, and you’ll see exactly what we’re doing. They’ve had unchecked power to censor, restrict, edit, shape, hide, alter, virtually any form of communication between private citizens or large public audiences. There’s no precedent in American history for a so small a number of corporations to control so large a sphere of human interaction, and that includes individual people controlling vast amounts of territory, and we can’t allow that to happen, especially, when they go about doing what they’re doing, because they’re doing things incorrectly. They have points of view, and if we go by that, it’s actually amazing that there was a success in 2016, but we can’t let this continue to happen.
Donald Trump: (01:06)
It’s very, very unfair, and you look at the statistics, and you look at what is going on, and I think everybody would very much agree with that, including Democrats, by the way, I saw quite a few Democrats are saying, this is about time something is done. Let’s see if they keep that decision after they hear that we agree with them. The choices that Twitter makes, what it chooses to suppress, edit, blacklist, shadow, ban are editorial decisions, pure and simple. They’re editorial decisions In those moments Twitter ceases to be a neutral public platform and they become an editor with a viewpoint, and I think we can say that about others also, whether you’re looking at Google, whether you’re looking at Facebook, and perhaps others. One egregious example is when they try to silence views that they disagree with by selectively applying a fact check, F-A-C-T fact check. What they choose to fact check, and what they choose to ignore, or even promote is nothing more than a political activism group or political activism, and it’s inappropriate.
Donald Trump: (02:15)
You look at what’s happened, you look at where they’re going, where they’re coming from. I think you all see it yourselves. This censorship and bias is a threat to freedom itself. Imagine if your phone company silenced, or edited your conversation. Social media companies have vastly more power and more reach than any phone company in the United States. More reach actually then your newspapers by far, more reach than a lot of your traditional forms of communication. Therefore, today I’m signing an executive order to protect and uphold the free speech and rights of the American people. Currently social media giants like Twitter receive an unprecedented liability shield based on the theory that they’re a neutral platform, which they’re not, not an editor with a viewpoint. My executive order calls for new regulations under section 230 of the communications decency act to make it that social media companies that engage in censoring, or any political conduct will not be able to keep their liability shield.
Donald Trump: (03:20)
That’s a big deal, and they have a shield. They can do what they want. They have a shield. They’re not going to have that shield. My executive order further instructs the federal trade commission, FTC to prohibit social media companies from engaging in any deceptive acts or practices affecting commerce. This authority resides in section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act. I think you know it pretty well. Most of you know it very well. I would think you know it quite well, right? Additionally, I’m directing the attorney general to work cooperatively with the states. He’s going to be working very much and very closely in cooperation with the states to enforce their own laws against such deceptive business practices. The states have brought in powerful authority to regulate in this arena, and they’ll be doing it also, and we encourage them to do it. If they see exactly as we’ve been seeing, what they’re doing is tantamount to monopoly.
Donald Trump: (04:19)
You can say it’s tantamount to taking over the airwaves. Can’t let it happen. Otherwise, we’re not going to have a democracy. We’re not going to have anything to do with a Republic. Finally, I’m directing my administration to develop policies and procedures to ensure taxpayer dollars are not going in any social media company that repress free speech. The government spends billions of dollars on giving them money. They’re rich enough, so we’re going to be doing none of it or very little of it. As President, I’ll not allow the American people to be bullied by these giant corporations. Many people have wanted this to be done by presidents for a long time, and now we’re doing it, and I’m sure they’ll be doing a lawsuit. And I’m also sure that we’re going to be going for legislation in addition to this, and the legislation will start immediately.
Donald Trump: (05:13)
I tell you, I’ve been called by Democrats that want to do this, and so, I think you could possibly have a bipartisan situation, but we’re fed up with it, and it’s unfair, and it’s been very unfair, and we’ll see what happens. Any questions?
Speaker 2: (05:29)
Mr. President, given your concern with Twitter, have you given any consideration to deleting your account to just walking away from this platform you’ve been so critical of?
Donald Trump: (05:37)
Well, if you weren’t fake, I would not even think about I would do that in a heartbeat, but the news is fake. If you look at what gets printed in newspapers, if only the public could understand where they’re reading a story, and they think it’s real, and it’s not real in so many cases, and I’m not saying in every case. You have some great journalists, you have some journalists that I have great respect for, but largely I find at least in a political sense, there’s so much fake news, it’s disgraceful.
Donald Trump: (06:08)
I would do that in a heartbeat. If I had fair… If we had a fair press in this country, I would do that in a heartbeat. There’s nothing I’d rather do than get rid of my whole Twitter account, but I’m able to get to, I guess, 186 million people. When you add up all the different accounts and add Facebook and Instagram, it’s a lot of people. And that’s more than the media companies have frankly, by a lot. And so if I get a story that’s wrong, I can put a social media, I don’t usually use the word Twitter, I say social media. But I put something out and the next day or the next hour or the next minute everybody’s reading about it. So I’m able to refute fake news and that’s very important. I’d like to ask the attorney general please, to say a couple of words.
Donald Trump: (06:53)
And he’s very strongly behind it, backing it very powerfully. And again, we’re going to be doing this. We’re also going through Congress.
William Barr: (07:02)
Well, as you mentioned, Mr. President, one of the things that I’ve found has the broadest bipartisan support these days is the feeling that this provision Section 230 has been stretched way beyond its original intention. And people feel that on both sides of the aisle. This was adopted 25 years ago to protect the fledgling industry and its purpose was to allow websites that were serving as essentially bulletin boards for diverse third-party content coming on to say that you’re not responsible for the content of that third-party information. And it also tried to encourage these companies to take down things like child pornography or human trafficking advertising and things. By saying, if you act to remove this kind of objectionable material, you won’t be liable for taking it down.
William Barr: (07:56)
Now, it’s been completely stretched to allow what if become really a behemoths who control a lot of the flow of information in our society to engage in censorship of that information and to act as editors and publishers of the material. So when they put on their own content, like fact check content onto other people’s content and when the curate their collection and when they start censoring particular content, including in many cases at the direction of foreign governments like communist China, they become publishers. And they shouldn’t be entitled to the same kind of shield that was set up earlier. Now, this executive order is a very strong step toward addressing this problem. It sets up a rulemaking procedure that will eventually be under the FCC to try to get back to the original interpretation and understanding of Section 230.
William Barr: (08:58)
It also empowers the attorney general to work with state attorneys general, to come up with model legislation that addresses this at the state level. And we’re preparing federal legislation, which we will be sending over shortly for review of the office of management and budget. So this is an important step to get back to the original understanding and others, a bit of a bait and switch that’s occurred in our society. These companies grew because they held themselves out as public forums, as free public forums, where a variety of voices and diverse voices could come on and be heard. That’s how they grew. That’s how they attracted the eyeballs. That’s why people joined them. But now that they have become these very powerful networks of eyeballs now that they’ve grown by holding themselves out as free public forums, they’ve now switched. And they are using that market power to force particular viewpoints and that’s wrong.
William Barr: (10:01)
And It has to be addressed not only through this executive order, but I think litigation going forward and by further action on Capitol Hill. Thank you, Mr. President.
Donald Trump: (10:11)
Do you have any questions for the attorney general?
Speaker 3: (10:14)
Yes, actually I do. Mr. Attorney General, not only have you been against Section 230 and the President has been against Section 230, the Vice President has said he’s against Section 230. Do you believe that the executive order that the President is about to sign in any way repeals or amend Section 230?
William Barr: (10:33)
No, it doesn’t repeal Section 230 and I’m not against Section 230 if it was properly interpreted and properly applied, but it’s been stretched. And I don’t know of anyone on Capitol Hill who doesn’t agree that it’s been stretched beyond its original retention. I think this will help it get back to the right balance.
Speaker 3: (10:52)
Mr. Attorney General, can you give us more details on the legislation, both you and the President referred to? What do you want to do in that legislation?
William Barr: (10:58)
Well, we’re still reviewing a number of possibilities and it’d be premature for me to discuss?
Donald Trump: (11:02)
One of the things we may do, Bill, is just remove or totally change 230. What I think we can say is we’re going to regulate it, it’s a provision and we’re going to regulate it. You take a look at this as an example. This was just that Twitter moments on the Muller witch hunt. So we won. We were in the right. You see what’s happened, it’s a total fraud. It was a total fraud, 76 to one, okay, 76 to one, you look at it. You think that’s fair? Twitter classifies the term illegal alien as hate speech, illegal alien. But, and viciously you look at what China, I mean just article after article here’s one. This is the arbitrary, this guy is the arbiter of what’s supposed to go in Twitter. He’s the one that he thought that… and he use CNN as a guide. CNN, which is fake news, he uses CNN as a guide. His name is Yoel Roth.
Donald Trump: (12:05)
And he’s the one that said that mail in balloting, you look mail in, no fraud, no fraud, really? Why didn’t you take a look all over the country? There’s cases all over the country. If we went to mail in balloting, our election all over the world would look as a total joke. It would be a total joke. There’s such fraud and abuse. And you know about harvesting, where they harvest the ballots and they go in and grab them and they go to people’s houses and then say, sign here. No, it doesn’t work… now an absentee ballot, you can’t be there or you’re sick and you go and you register and you do all sorts of things to get that ballot. And there’s good security measures, but where they send out, like in California, millions and millions of ballots to anybody that’s breathing, anybody in California that’s breathing gets a ballot.
Speaker 3: (12:53)
But Mr. President, that’s not true. [crosstalk 00:12:56].
Donald Trump: (12:57)
If you just wait a minute, I’m not finished. So here’s your man and that’s on Twitter. And the amazing thing is he’s wrong. And even no matter who it is, they will admit that he’s wrong because there’s tremendous controversy on mail in voting. And I can say this, the Republican party can not let it happen. Go ahead.
Speaker 3: (13:16)
You know Gavin Newsom, Governor Newsom, has not sent ballots out to everybody in California. They’re only going to registered voters.
Donald Trump: (13:24)
How many are there-
Speaker 3: (13:24)
So what your tweet said was not wrong… it was not correct, it was wrong.
Donald Trump: (13:31)
Oh really? So when he sends out 28 million ballots and they’re in all the mailboxes and kids go in and they raid the mailboxes and they hand them to people that are signing the ballots down the end of the street, which is happening, they grab the ballots, you don’t think that happens? There’s ballot harvesting where all of us… we had seven elections for Congress and they were like tied.
Donald Trump: (13:53)
And they lost every one of them because they came and they dropped a whole pile of ballots on the table. But you don’t think they rip them out of mailboxes. It’s all the time you read about it. You can read about and take a look. They do worse than that. In some cases, they won’t sell them like to a Republican community, a conservative community. They don’t happen to send the ballots to those communities. And there’s no way of checking. No, you have to go and you have to vote. Voting is a great thing. Voting, we would be the laughing stock of the world.
Donald Trump: (14:23)
And if you just use common sense, you know that’s going to happen, but they raid the mailboxes. They can even print ballots. They get the same paper, the same machine, nothing special. They get the same paper, the same machine. They print ballots and Bill would have to do a great job to catch them doing it or your state authorities would have to. But you have tremendous potential and you have tremendous fraud and abuse, but you have tremendous potential for fraud and abuse. Go ahead.
Speaker 4: (14:51)
Mr. President, you had said in one of your Twitter, in one of your tweets that you would consider shutting down Twitter and social media companies, did you actually mean you would want to shut down an American company?
Donald Trump: (15:01)
I tell you what I have so much, it seems influence over Twitter in the sense of people wanting to see Twitter because of what I have. I have a vast number of, we have a number of platforms as you know, we have millions and millions of people. I think this, if Twitter were not honorable, if you’re going to have a guy like this be your judge and jury, I think you shut it down as far as I’m concerned, but I’d have to go through a legal process to do that.
Speaker 4: (15:27)
How would you shut down an American company?
Donald Trump: (15:28)
I don’t know. I’d have to ask the lawyers. I’d have to go through a legal process. If it were legal, if it were able to be legally shut down, I would do it. I think I’d be hurting it very badly if we didn’t use it anymore. I mean, we have other sites we could use, I guess, or we’d have to develop other sites. But, and I’m not just talking about Twitter. Look at Facebook, look at the tribunal they set up at Facebook. This woman who you remember testifying recently in Congress, her hatred was so incredible to what the Republican party and me that there was no way you can get a fair trial. So this is not like it’s supposed to be, this is not like it’s supposed to be. So we’re going to see what happens and you know what, I guess it’s going to be challenged in court, what isn’t? But I think we’ll do very well. Yeah, go ahead.
Speaker 5: (16:19)
Mr. President as to potential litigation, can you discuss the timing of that and what is the remedy that you’re going to be seeking?
William Barr: (16:31)
What I was referring to, there is litigation going on all the time on Section 230 and its scope. And we would look for appropriate vehicles to weigh in and file statement of interest.
Speaker 5: (16:42)
So we wouldn’t be filing individual-
William Barr: (16:43)
Speaker 5: (16:44)
Okay. Thank you.
Speaker 6: (16:45)
Mr. President, what do you do about the situation on the border between India and China?
Donald Trump: (16:51)
Aww, India. He loves India so much, he’s never asked a question other than an India question and that’s okay. I just got back from India, right? I just beat COVID-
Speaker 6: (17:00)
You’re very popular in India.
Donald Trump: (17:02)
I know, they like me in India. I think they like me in India, certainly more than the media likes me in this country. And I like Modi. I like your prime minister a lot, he’s a great gentleman. Great gentlemen. Yeah, they have a big conflict going with India and China, is that what you’re talking about?
Speaker 6: (17:16)
Donald Trump: (17:16)
Yeah, they have a big conflict going with India and China, two countries with 1.4 billion people, two countries with very powerful militaries and India is not happy and probably China is not happy, but I can tell you, I did speak to Prime Minister Modi, he’s not in a good mood about what’s going on with China.
Speaker 7: (17:43)
Mr. President, have you spoken to-
Donald Trump: (17:44)
Wait. Are you finished?
Speaker 6: (17:47)
Yesterday, you twitted about you want to mediate between India and China China on this issue?
Donald Trump: (17:52)
I would do that. I would do that if they thought it would help, if I were the mediator or the arbiter, I wouldn’t do that. So we’ll see. Go ahead.
Speaker 7: (17:59)
Have you spoken to the family of George Floyd yet?
Donald Trump: (18:01)
No, I haven’t, but I feel very, very badly. It’s a very shocking sight. Bill and I were talking about it before. It’s one of the reasons Bill is here right now, because as you know we’re very much involved and I’ve asked the Attorney General, FBI and the Attorney General to take a very strong look and to see what went on. Because that was a very, very bad thing that I saw. I saw it last night and I didn’t like it.
Speaker 7: (18:26)
You think those police officers should be prosecuted?
Donald Trump: (18:28)
I’m not going to make any comments right now. I can tell you. I think what I saw was not good, was not good, very bad. Anybody else?
Speaker 8: (18:37)
Mr. President, are you definitively staying in the US, China trade deal?
Donald Trump: (18:42)
We’ll be announcing what we’re doing tomorrow with respect to China. And we are not happy with China. We are not happy with what’s happened. All over the world people are suffering, 186 countries, all over the world they’re suffering. We’re not happy. Okay. Thank you very much everybody.
Speaker 9: (19:06)
All right, press, let’s go. Come on. Come on, let’s go.
Donald Trump: (19:06)
Thank you everybody. Thank you.