Sep 23, 2020
Donald Trump Talks Social Media Accountability Transcript September 23
President Donald Trump joined state attorneys general to discuss protecting consumers from social media abuses on September 23. Read the transcript of the conversation here.
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President Donald Trump: (00:00)
Josh Hawley, state attorneys, General Ken Paxton of Texas, Mark Brnovich of Arizona, Jeff Landry of Louisiana, Lynn Fitch of Mississippi, Eric Schmidt of Missouri, Alan Wilson of South Carolina, Sean Reyes of Utah, Leslie Rutledge of Arkansas and Patrick Morrisey of West Virginia. That’s a very talented group of people. I have to say. To have you all in one room, we appreciate it. In recent years, a small group of powerful technology platforms have tightened their grip over commerce and communications in America. They’ve used this power to engage in unscrupulous business practices while simultaneously waging war on free enterprise and free expression. At the urging of the radical left, these platforms have become intolerant of diverse political views and abusive toward their own users.
President Donald Trump: (00:55)
And I think we could say as abusive as you could possibly be in some cases, right Josh? You’ve seen that. For example, Twitter routinely restricts posts expressing conservative views even from a president of the United States while at the same time, it allows Iran Supreme leader to freely spew vile anti-Semitic hate and even death threats. Every year, countless Americans are banned, blacklisted and silenced through arbitrary or malicious enforcement of ever-shifting rules. Some platforms exploit their power, acquire vast sums of personal data without consent or rig their terms of service to coerce misleader defraud. And we’ve seen it so many times. In May, I directed Attorney General Barr to work with the state attorneys general, as they enforce the state laws against deceptive business practices.
President Donald Trump: (01:48)
Today’s discussion will focus on concrete, legal steps to protect an open internet and a free society, including steps to ensure the social media companies can not deceive their users with hidden efforts to manipulate the spread of information. This is a very big subject. We’re going to be discussing it. We’ve been discussing it and over a fairly short period of time, I suspect, we’ll come to a conclusion. I’d like to ask the attorney general to say a few words. Bill, please.
Attorney General Barr : (02:20)
Thank you Mr. President for convening this round table. And it’s a pleasure to have this opportunity to meet with all my colleagues, the state attorneys general and Senator Hawley. And you state attorney generals and I are meeting tomorrow on some of our efforts in related areas. So I’m looking forward to that meeting as well. But we’re here today as part of the president’s executive order on preventing online censorship. That order tasked the Department of Justice with a number of responsibilities. First, the department was directed by the president to propose legislation, to reform Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. That’s a provision that provides broad civil immunity to online platforms, both for hosting and for removing third party content. I’m pleased to report that earlier today, the department on behalf of the administration has sent to Congress proposed legislation to reform Section 230.
Attorney General Barr : (03:24)
And that legislation addresses concerns about online censorship by requiring greater transparency and accountability when platforms remove lawful speech. Your executive order also directed the department to work with state attorneys general to review how state laws can be used to combat deceptive and misleading online practices. And I’d like to thank my colleagues from the states for joining us to begin addressing this important topic and I look forward to our broader engagement on that issue. Online platforms play a vital role in our society. Nearly everyone relies on platforms now on a daily basis to communicate, to share private information, buy goods, receive news and information. And we’ve grown to depend on it. And necessarily we have to put our trust in these platforms, but these platforms can abuse those positions of trust, whether by deciding which voices they’re going to amplify and which they’re going to throttle and by improperly tracking and collecting user data and even facilitating criminal activity.
Attorney General Barr : (04:39)
So the increased size and power of these entities really exacerbates those concerns. And under the president’s leadership, this administration is committed to addressing potential abuses of online platforms in a number of important ways. I’ve already mentioned that we have proposed this legislation that will focus the immunity and make sure it is not a license to abuse and to sensor their platforms. We also will provide the ability for individuals to pursue civil claims against online platforms that engage in bad faith censorship. But even in its current form, Section 230 doesn’t stop the states, whether they work alone or together, or with the Department of Justice, it doesn’t prevent the States from using their own state laws against platforms that are engaged in defrauding or misleading users. Section 230 does not bar the states from bringing state law causes of action based on the platform’s own conduct, as opposed to its role hosting third party conduct.
Attorney General Barr : (05:56)
And when they engage in unfair and deceptive practices, state AGs can be the tip of the spear. So I’m looking forward to working with all of you. I know some states have already brought some interesting cases against platforms for fraud, deception, and misuse of sensitive personal data. And we think there’s ample opportunity to continue those investigations and actions. And I’m looking forward to working with all of you to address that. Thank you Mr. President.
President Donald Trump: (06:26)
Thank you very much, Bill. Josh, please.
Josh Hawley: (06:29)
Well, thank you Mr. President for convening this round table. It’s good to see my former colleagues. Of course, I used to be a state attorney general, so great to see all of you again. Thanks for the tremendous work you’re doing.
Speaker 4: (06:40)
[inaudible 00:06:40] you were a state attorney general.
Josh Hawley: (06:41)
That’s right. That’s right. Until somebody at this table convinced me to run for something else. But I think that to just to amplify the president’s remarks, we see in these online platforms, the most powerful corporations in the world, maybe the most powerful corporations in the history of the world. They’ve got more information on Americans than any companies have ever had, any government has ever had. They increasingly control our communication with each other. They-
President Donald Trump: (07:07)
So how come I won last time?
Josh Hawley: (07:09)
Because you beat them at their own game. You were so good at communicating. And as these-
President Donald Trump: (07:14)
By the way, it’s gotten a lot tougher.
Josh Hawley: (07:15)
It’s gotten a lot worse. And as these folks should know, reporters know because these online platforms increasingly control the flow of news from journalists to the American public. So these are incredibly powerful platforms. They need to be held accountable. And reforming Section 230 is a vital part of that.
President Donald Trump: (07:35)
Thank you Josh. And a big factor. Would anybody like to say anything? Anybody in particular?
Speaker 5: (07:41)
Sure Mr. President. Thank you again for convening this-
President Donald Trump: (07:43)
Speaker 5: (07:45)
Attorney General Barr, I appreciate the work we’re doing in this investigation of Google. One of the reasons we were so interested in this is really what you said, Senator Hawley, is that we’re at this point where we have these corporations that have tremendous power. And if we don’t step up to the plate now and take a look at what they’re doing, how they’re doing it, we may never stop it. It may be just unstoppable. Some of them, they’re really larger than countries and more powerful than countries. And they know more about people than we know about ourselves, which is a little scary. So I appreciate the attorney generals that are working on our case now, and that are going forward with other issues. And I think this relationship that we’ve had with the Department of Justice under you, has been just amazing. And I’m really appreciative of it because I think together, and it takes us together to take on some of the forces that we’re dealing with. So thank you very much.
Attorney General Barr : (08:37)
President Donald Trump: (08:38)
Well, I think we can say that we’re watching them very closely during this election cycle. They’re being watched and scrutinized very, very closely by everybody at this table. And far beyond this table, a lot of people are watching and we’re going to just see. We see so many things that are unfair. But this is big time. And we’ll let you know. We’re going to let you know. But it’s very serious, very bad, very serious. Lynn, would you like to say something?
Lynn Fitch: (09:05)
Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you, general Barr. It’s an opportunity for us to all come together and work and hold these big tech companies accountable. This is an opportunity where they’ve been censoring our freedom of voices and American’s just not going to stand for that. And so I appreciate the opportunity for us to all work together, to move forward with the changing of 230 and change the dynamics of expression for voices.
President Donald Trump: (09:27)
Thank you Lynn. Very much. Anybody else? Anybody? Go ahead please.
Speaker 7: (09:31)
Mr. President, I have a story that I think you’ll enjoy. When you were being criticized by Twitter related to absentee ballots, that very same day, we concluded an investigation of West Virginia, which affirmed a lot of the very things you were saying. So that type of issue is an example of what can happen when you have these social media companies run amok. And there needs to be accountability. There needs to be an advanced for the First Amendment. But I thought you’d appreciate the irony of that very day, that person’s going to go to jail now. And meanwhile, Twitter continues to engage and pretend that what’s true is not.
President Donald Trump: (10:11)
The whole thing with your balloting and what’s going on with balloting will prove to be one of the great catastrophes in the history of our country even beyond elections. And the Democrats know it. They know what’s going on, they know how it’s going on. Who’s getting it. Who’s sending it. Where is it going? Where is it coming back? Where is it coming from? Are mailmen involved? Who’s delivering it? It’s very, very… and they know it’s going to be. And all you have to do is look at, as an in case in West Virginia, but many cases. I would say every single case in the last number of years where they’ve done this. And this is a tiny scale compared to millions and millions of ballots that are being sent. This is going to be one of the great catastrophes and one of the great embarrassments in the history of our country, beyond elections and the Democrats know it, and they’re setting it up for chaos.
President Donald Trump: (11:06)
And that’s what they’ve done. And these media companies, if you criticize it, they flag you. They take you down. They do all sorts of things and they know it too. They know it too. But you’ve done a great job. When you did that in West Virginia, and it happened to be the same day that we were criticized for just mentioning, you better be careful with unsolicited ballots. See, I think that’s a better name, Josh. Because they said universal ballots and they had 15 different names. People said, how does that have to do with being universal? Unsolicited. 80 million unsolicited ballots being sent all over the place. People are going to get them. What the hell is this? What is it? They’ll be harvesting them like crazy. I mean, some of the states, they have no signatures necessary, no verification necessary. Nevada, you don’t have to verify the signature.
President Donald Trump: (12:07)
There’s no verification. It is a disgrace that this can happen. Just remember I told you so. I told you so. We’re going to win anyway, I hope. But I’ll tell you, it’s very tough when you have Democrat… I mean, it’s Democrat governors and states controlled by Democrat governors. And they’re sending them out by the millions. And Josh, it’s going to be a mess. And they all know it. And the people that know it the most are the Democrats, they fully know. And then they talk about, you’re suppressing our right to vote. They’re using COVID as a way of scamming the system. And when you talk about foreign countries, foreign countries are nothing compared to what’s taking place. And if foreign countries want to, this is an easy system to break into it because they’ll do counterfeit ballots. They’ll do counterfeit ballots by the millions.
President Donald Trump: (13:05)
So when you talk about China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, all the countries you talk about, that’s peanuts, that’s all peanuts compared to this. But this is their opening because they can use nice cheap ballots and they can send them out, counterfeit them and just send them in. This is a disaster and they should stop it before it’s too late. Now, we’re before numerous federal judges. From what I hear, great federal judges, and they have the power to stop it. I hope they’re watching because somebody’s got to make the plea. This is going to be a disaster. I’m not even saying bad for me. It could work both ways. I don’t think it will work both ways, but it could work both ways. Could be against Republicans or Democrats. But I hope somebody is watching because this is a disaster waiting to happen. Thank you all very much. Thank you. Thank you.
[crosstalk 00:14:03] so important you believe because they’d have a full compliment of the Supreme court-
President Donald Trump: (14:08)
Well, it’s a great question. A very fair question. Yes. I think it’s very important. I think this will end up in the Supreme court and I think it’s very important that we have nine justices. And I think the system is going to go very quickly. I’ll be submitting, at 5:00 o’clock on Saturday, the name of the person I chose for this most important of all positions. And I think we should go very quickly. You see, the Republicans are very united. As far as timing is concerned, we were elected. We have a lot of time. One justice was picked in 19 days. 19 days. We could do four at that rate or five. We have a lot of time. No, before the election and then you have after the too.
President Donald Trump: (14:52)
But in terms of time, we go to January 20th. But I think it’s better if you go before the election, because I think this scam that the Democrats are pulling, it’s a scam. This scam will be before the United States Supreme court. And I think having a four, four situation is not a good situation. If you get that, I don’t know that you’d get that. I think it should be eight, nothing or nine, nothing. But just in case it would be more political than it should be, I think it’s very important to have a ninth justice.
Are you fully confident that Lindsey Graham can get this through the committee and Mitch McConnell can get [inaudible 00:15:27] to the Senate prior to November 3rd?
President Donald Trump: (15:28)
I can only say we’re giving you a person, whoever it would be. I could say any of the five, frankly. Five women are in the finalists and they’re all world-class, brilliant, great. They’re great in every respect from academic-
President Donald Trump: (15:46)
Oh, he can do it very easily. He can very quickly. From what I heard, he doesn’t even have to hold a hearing. He wouldn’t have to hold a hearing. He’s going to, I would think. But he wouldn’t even actually have to hold one. And most of these people are young and they just went through the process. Many of them just went through the process recently. So it’s not like, let’s look at papers that are 15 years old. No, I think the process is going to go very quickly. The hearing, I think Lindsey’s going to call the date of the hearing as soon… you can’t call it until you have the candidate.
President Donald Trump: (16:19)
And once we have the nominee, I will wait to hear what the date is. But from that point, I would think it would be fairly quick. They’re all extraordinary people. I can’t imagine it could be anything else. And the Republicans, I mean, you saw them as well as the Republicans. Most of them have already made their intentions very clear, even Josh. So I think that… that’s a tough vote. So I think we’re in great shape. Let me ask you that question, Josh. John’s asking a question about timing and all. We have nothing but time.
Josh Hawley: (16:56)
John, I think absolutely we can get it done. We could do it even with a full compliment of hearings. I think that the president’s just alluded Justice Stevens was confirmed in 19 days. Justice Ginsburg was confirmed in about 40 days. We’ve got the time to do it. We’ve got the wherewithal to do it. And I think we should have a vote before the election for the reasons the president articulates and that I think we can get it done and we will.
Speaker 9: (17:18)
Mr. Precedent, do you believe that justice was served in the Breonna Taylor case in Kentucky? And what is your message to the black community who believed that perhaps justice was not served by the decision that was rendered by the grand jury in Kentucky?
President Donald Trump: (17:32)
Well, my message is that I love the black community and I’ve done more for the black community than any other president. And I say with a possible exception of Abraham Lincoln and I mean that. With opportunities zones and with criminal justice reform, with prison reform, with what we’ve done for historically black universities, colleges, schools. What we’ve done, nobody’s done more. Abraham Lincoln, let’s give him the nod. But beyond that, nobody’s done more. I love the black community. I don’t know enough about it. I heard a decision was just made. We’ve been together here and so we haven’t discussed it. But after I see what the decision is, I will have a comment on it.
President Donald Trump: (18:15)
Okay. Thank you all very much. Thank you very much. Thank you. [Crosstalk 00:18:27]
President Donald Trump: (18:26)
Thank you. Thanks.
Speaker 10: (18:27)
Thank you, Mr. President. Thanks.