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Trump promises free speech reform in government, academia and tech

Former President Donald Trump speaks May 28, 2022 in Casper, Wyoming. The rally is being held in support of Harriet Hageman, Rep. Liz Cheney’s main challenger in Wyoming.

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Former President Donald Trump on Thursday announced a series of aggressive and ambitious proposals to undo what he called a suppression of free speech in the United States if he is elected president in 2024.

Trump, who lost his 2020 White House re-election bid, promised in a videotaped speech that he would target government agencies and employees, universities and tech companies with a series of executive orders and policies aimed at their alleged censorship of speeches and ideas.

Among other things, Trump pledged to “prohibit federal money from being used to label national discourse as ‘bad’ or ‘disinformation,'” including federal grants and student loan support for colleges.

“The censorship cartel must be broken up and destroyed and it must happen immediately,” said the Republican, who is prone to linguistic hyperbole and overpromising when announcing plans.

“When I am president, this whole rotten system of censorship and information control will be ripped out of the whole system. There will be nothing left,” he said.

Trump and other right-wing figures have claimed for years that they are victims of efforts to limit their speech by so-called “deep state” actors, mainstream media and social media companies.

These claims have gained momentum in recent weeks with the release earlier this month of what Twitter CEO Elon Musk called the “Twitter records” to back up claims that the company’s previous management handled content moderation in a way that was biased against conservatives. Twitter released internal communications to a handful of conservative writers, who posted a series of tweets detailing the social media company’s decision ahead of the 2020 election to temporarily remove a New York Post article about the content of a laptop belonging to Hunter Biden, son of the president. Joe Biden.

Musk even went so far as to say that Twitter, which he bought in October, interfered with the US election. Twitter did not respond to requests for the recordings from CNBC and The New York Times.

Some studies have found that despite claims of a liberal-leaning Twitter censoring conservatives, the social media platform has elevated conservative news and voices above liberal content.

Trump said “within hours of my inauguration” he would sign an executive order prohibiting federal agencies “from colluding” with others to censor or otherwise limit lawful speech by individuals.

He also said he would begin a process to identify and fire “all federal bureaucrats who have engaged in national censorship.”

And he said he would order the Justice Department “to investigate all parties involved in the new online censorship regime, which is absolutely destructive and terrible, and to aggressively prosecute any identified crimes.”

“These include possible violations of federal civil rights law, campaign finance laws, federal election law, securities law and antitrust laws, the Hatch Act and a host of other potential criminal, regulatory and constitutional offences,” he said.

Stephen Farnsworth, a professor of political science at the University of Mary Washington, dismissed Trump’s proposals as “something to generate energy among his supporters” after a soggy campaign kickoff.

“It’s not a plan that would ever succeed legislatively or judicially if it came to that,” Farnsworth said in an interview. He said Trump was “trying to change the narrative” after many of his hand-picked candidates lost high profile races in the recent midterm elections.

“The former president’s quick and loose connection to the truth makes him a poor choice to dictate the terms of discourse in the country,” Farnsworth added.

Ian Ostrander, an associate professor of political science at Michigan State University, said if Trump is re-elected, he “could certainly use tools like executive orders to creatively alter government policy.”

“But bringing about drastic and lasting change can be difficult using only unilateral powers,” Ostrander wrote in an email to CNBC.

Trump also reiterated on Thursday his longstanding desire to repeal Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects websites from lawsuits for content posted by their users.

Just as there is no guarantee that Trump will be the GOP presidential nominee in 2024 – or that he would win a general election – there is no guarantee that he can or will follow through on any or all of the promises. of the plan he announced. Thursday.

When he was president, Trump was frustrated with his inability to force the Justice Department to do what he wanted to do, such as take steps to reverse his election loss to Biden, and was furious that the department was appointing a lawyer. special, Robert Mueller, to investigate his 2016 campaign contacts with Russians.

And when Trump vetoed the National Defense Authorization Act at the end of 2020 because the bill did not include the elimination of Section 230, Congress overruled that veto.

– CNBC’s Lora Kolodny contributed to this report.


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