May 17, 2021—President Joe Biden revoked an executive order previously signed by Donald Trump that would have had the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission regulate speech on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.
On May 14, President Biden revoked executive order 13925, which concerned “online censorship.” Trump signed this executive order into law on May 28, 2020, and listed Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube as its prime targets. He also revoked executive orders concerning everything from the destruction of monuments and memorials to foreign assistance.
This revocation represents the Biden Administration’s stark departure from Trump-era tech policy.
In order 13925, Trump broadly accused social media platforms of harming national discourse, stating that they were “engaging in selective censorship.” He also harshly criticized the current application of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects companies from being held liable for the content their users post. Trump called on the FCC to clarify the scope of Section 230 and devise new rules to reflect a narrowed interpretation.
The executive order would also have called on the FTC to investigate “unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce” that Trump believed was taking place on Twitter and other social media platforms.
Executive orders represent a somewhat ambiguous region in executive authority, and there remain unresolved legal issues regarding the scope of executive policies. All of that considered, it is not unprecedented for an incoming president to revoke in-force executive orders in the early days of his term.