Donald Trump vowed Thursday that if he is elected president again, he would ban federal money from being used to label speech as misinformation or disinformation, fire federal officials who have engaged in what he characterized as “domestic censorship,” and punish universities engaging in “censorship activities” with cuts to federal funding.
Trump unveiled his plans – which include proposed unilateral executive orders as well as legislation that would need congressional approval – in a video on Truth Social as part of his “free speech platform,” the first of several policy announcement videos to be released as his campaign for a second term works to recalibrate after a lackluster launch.
Trump has not held any public campaign events or left his home state of Florida since his announcement last month of his third presidential bid.
While advisers and aides have been working to build an infrastructure for a 2024 campaign, the former president has remained embroiled in a number of high-profile legal battles and has come under fire for hosting a dinner with Holocaust denier and White supremacist Nick Fuentes and rapper Kanye West.
Trump is expected to begin campaigning and traveling after the start of the new year with a series of what are being described as smaller events, and his team will unveil a new website as early as next week, sources familiar with the planning told CNN.
With the unveiling of his “free speech platform,” Trump is focusing on an issue that has galvanized members of the right, and his base in particular, who have objected to the way that social media companies moderate content and have claimed that the companies unjustly target conservatives. In recent weeks, Twitter owner Elon Musk has released internal Twitter communications through independent journalists, which members of the right have cited as evidence of improper content moderation.
Trump alluded in the video to the recent release of these “Twitter Files,” saying that within hours of taking office, he would “sign an executive order banning any federal department or agency from colluding with any organization, business or person, to censor, limit, categorize or impede the lawful speech of American citizens.” He promised a Department of Justice investigation into censorship, imploring House Republicans to send preservation letters to the Biden administration, the Biden campaign and “every Silicon Valley tech giant” directing them “not to destroy evidence of censorship.”
Trump proposed that certain federal and intelligence officials should be forced to wait seven years before working for certain tech companies to “confront the problems of major platforms being infiltrated by legions of former deep staters and intelligence officials.” He also proposed barring nonprofits and academic programs that censor speech from receiving federal funding. Trump said universities found to have engaged in certain activities, such as flagging content for removal, should lose access to federal research money and federal student loan support for a period of five years or more.
Trump continued his push to revise Section 230, which currently gives legal protection to tech companies and allows them to moderate content.
“Digital platforms should only qualify for immunity protection under Section 230 if they meet high standards of neutrality, transparency, fairness and nondiscrimination,” Trump said. The former president began proposing limiting Section 230 during his first term.
Trump added that Congress should pass a “digital Bill of Rights” that would force government officials to get a court order before taking down online content and inform users if their content is being restricted or removed.
Earlier Thursday, Trump launched a new “digital trading card” that showcases his “life & career.” In a post to Truth Social, the former president said his debut non-fungible token, or NFT, was “very much like a baseball card,” noting a cost of $99 each. At least one of the digital collectibles released by Trump portrayed him as a cartoon superhero, sporting a giant “T” on his chest and a gilded “Trump Champion” belt. The website where consumers can purchase the digital collectibles emphatically denies that any of the funds will go toward Trump’s 2024 presidential campaign.