KU News Service

Trump order aimed at social media 'could be disastrous,' media law expert says

Thu, 05/28/2020

LAWRENCE — The White House announced Thursday that President Donald Trump intended to sign an executive order targeting social media companies, including Twitter, Facebook and Google, for the ways they monitor content on their platforms. The order comes just days after Twitter placed fact-checking labels on Trump’s tweets regarding mail-in ballots, which drew immediate outrage from Trump and conservatives, who claimed anti-conservative bias. Genelle Belmas, associate professor of journalism & mass communications at KU, is available to speak with media about the order and its implications.

Belmas, an expert in media law, can comment on the order and its application to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which spares tech companies for liability regarding content users post on their platforms and from retribution for how they police speech on their services. The order will direct the FCC to review Section 230 and possibly reverse the protections it provides. Belmas can discuss internet speech, Section 230, possible implications of the order, media law, potential legal challenges to the order, free speech, censorship, the First Amendment and related topics.

“Section 230 forms the legal foundation of our ability to interact with each other via social media. The law provides protection to social media organizations against liability for content posted by their users,” Belmas said. “While Section 230 is not without its faults, the administration must take care before amending it. Failure to do so without consideration of the requirements of online communicators and the companies that support them could be disastrous.”

Belmas is an expert in media law who also teaches classes in media ethics, communications technology and computer-assisted reporting. Her work has been published in the Yale Journal of Online Law and Technology, the Federal Communications Law Journal and Communications Law and Policy. She co-wrote a book chapter on the law of livestreaming, including Section 230, for the forthcoming book “The Law and Ethics of Live-Streaming,” with Brian Larson, associate professor of law at Texas A&M University. She is also the author of the media law textbook Major Principles of Media Law.

To schedule an interview, contact Mike Krings at or @MikeKrings.

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Trump's social media order may not go far, @KUJournalism prof Genelle Belmas writes for @Law360 . #KUexperts

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