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Wall Street Analysts Dismiss Trump Social Media Order as ‘Noise’

A Twitter election interference tweet by U.S. President Donald Trump is displayed on a smartphone in an arranged photograph taken in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., on Wednesday, May 26, 2020. President Donald Trump threatened to regulate or shutter social media companies -- a warning apparently aimed at Twitter Inc. after it began fact-checking his tweets.

Equity analysts see President Trump’s threatened social media executive order as little more than bluster, with limited economic impact on the companies he’s targeting, such as Twitter Inc. and Facebook Inc.

Equity analysts see President Trump’s order represents “more noise on social media regulation,” Baird analysts led by Colin Sebastian wrote in a note. They don’t see “any material impact” on Facebook or Twitter revenues, as a dispute over content moderation probably won’t influence users, and as advertisers are likely to “follow traffic and eyeballs.” Sebastian added that “any significant pullback in shares would likely be good buying opportunities.”
Facebook, Twitter have beaten the broader market in the past year

Twitter shares pared a loss of as much as 5.3%, the most since May 13, in Thursday trading. Facebook shares climbed as much as 0.7%. Earlier, Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg told CNBC that social networks shouldn’t fact-check politicians.

Trump’s moves are likely “more bark than bite,” Height Capital Markets analysts Chase White and Clayton Allen wrote in a note, citing news reports suggesting the order will address Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, the liability shield that protects Internet platforms from whatever content is posted on their sites. They see the Federal Communications Commission as having limited control over social media companies, which aren’t directly regulated like utilities or broadcasters.

Read more: Trump Threatens to Shut Social Media After Twitter Spat

“There will be zero financial impact from [Trump’s] temper tantrum,” Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter said via email. “While it is definitely the FCC’s responsibility to execute the laws subject to its interpretation of them, it is hard to see how the FCC is responsible for following the president’s interpretation from an executive order.”

The timing of the executive order is unclear; earlier the White House said it was still in the works. On Thursday morning, Trump used Twitter to say “This will be a Big Day for Social Media and FAIRNESS!” and to discuss technology companies and the November election.

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Otsile Nkadimeng - photo by Thom Pierce

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