The president is going after Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a statute laid in 1996 that laid the groundwork for the modern digital age. It gives social media companies almost all-authority to moderate content on their platforms without penalty.
To a large extent, Section 230 is the reason we can post freely on the internet, as tech companies are not liable for posts users put on their sites. As the White House said, they are like bulletin boards, distributors of the content but not publishers. Most tech companies only step in to regulate extreme content, like violence or nudity.
If the order is passed, Facebook, Twitter and other companies may lose their Section 230 protection if they limit user freedom of speech or deviate from the terms of service without a fair hearing. The White House wrote that these companies hold unprecedented power to shape the interpretation of public events, to control what people see and do not see. Selective censorship would harm national discourse and reflect political bias. It wrote: “Such debate is just as important online as it is in our universities, our town halls, and our homes. It is essential to sustaining our democracy.”