Tech advocacy group’s lawsuit says Trump’s order on social media is unconstitutional

U.S. President Donald Trump holds a Bible as he talks to the media while standing in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church across from the White House after walking there for a photo opportunity during ongoing protests over racial inequality in the wake of the death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody, outside the White House in Washington, U.S., June 1, 2020. REUTERS/Tom Brenner

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – An advocacy group backed by the tech industry filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against President Donald Trump’s executive order on social media, as U.S. technology companies have been fighting White House efforts to weaken a law that protects them.

The Washington-based Center for Democracy & Technology said in its lawsuit that Trump’s executive order violates the First Amendment rights of social media companies. It noted that the order was issued after Twitter Inc (TWTR.N) amended one of Trump’s tweets and called it “plainly retaliatory.”

The lawsuit argues that Trump’s executive order will “chill future online speech by other speakers” and reduce the ability of Americans to speak freely online.

Trump, in an attempt to regulate social media platforms where he has been criticized, said last week he will introduce legislation that may scrap or weaken a law that has protected internet companies, including Twitter and Facebook (FB.O).

The proposed legislation was part of an executive order Trump signed on Thursday afternoon. Trump had attacked Twitter for tagging his tweets about unsubstantiated claims of fraud about mail-in voting with a warning prompting readers to fact-check the posts.

Trump said he wants to “remove or change” a provision of a law known as Section 230 that shields social media companies from liability for content posted by their users. He also said Attorney General William Barr will begin drafting legislation “immediately” to regulate social media companies.

The White House declined comment on the lawsuit.

“Twitter appended the President’s tweets… in immediate retaliation, the President issued the Executive Order,” said the lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Reporting by Alison Frankel in New York and Nandita Bose in Washington; Editing by Chris Reese and David Gregorio

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