Trump has a point. Evidence for Twitter’s self-proclaimed political neutrality is meagre. Those enlisted to moderate content are overwhelmingly left-leaning and supportive of intersectionality and social-justice activism. In his book The Madness of Crowds, Douglas Murray notes that this bias is reflected even in the selection criteria for employees. Companies test applicants in order ‘to weed out anyone with the wrong ideological inclinations’. The major tech giants, Murray writes, employ ‘thousands of people on six-figure salaries whose job it is to try to formulate and police content’. Even if the filtering practices are only unintentionally partisan, the inherent political bias of the Silicon Valley workforce makes this outcome inevitable.
Trump’s executive order will be received with ambivalence by many American conservatives and libertarians. They will be nervous about the prospect of the regulation of private companies, but will nonetheless recognize that in a world in which social media is now the de facto public square, there is a need to uphold first amendment protections. Rather than weakening Section 230, some kind of Internet Bill of Rights should perhaps be considered in order to guarantee freedom of speech for social media users. As Stephen L. Miller has noted on this site, Mark Zuckerberg is right to argue that tech companies ‘shouldn’t be the arbiter of truth’; the public do not need to be patronized by Silicon Valley executives telling them what to think.