Four Republican senators have requested that the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) take a fresh look at Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act and clearly define the criteria for which companies can receive protections under the statute.
Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act shields social media platforms from the liability imposed on publishers when they act in “good faith” to restrict access to or remove certain objectionable materials.
Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Kelly Loeffler (R-GA), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), and Josh Hawley (R-MO) on Tuesday sent an open letter to the FCC, urging chairman Ajit Pai to examine the “special status” afforded to social media sites under the statute.
The letter states that the request was made in light of what it called “recent troubling activities by social media companies, including partisan attempts to silence political speech and efforts to silence critics of the Chinese Communist Party.”
“Social media companies have become involved in a range of editorial and promotional activity; like publishers, they monetize, edit, and otherwise editorialize user content. It is time to take a fresh look at Section 230 and to interpret the vague standard of ‘good faith’ with specific guidelines and direction,” the senators wrote.
“In addition, it appears that courts have granted companies immunity for editing and altering content even though the text of Section 230 prohibits immunity for any content that the company ‘in part … develop[s].’ These interpretations also deserve a fresh look. We therefore request that the FCC clearly define the framework under which technology firms, including social media companies, receive protections under Section 230,” they added.
Trump’s order seeks to curtail their legal protections after Twitter Inc added a notice that one of his tweets violated its rules for “glorifying violence,” shortly after it slapped a fact-check label on another of his tweets opposing voting by mail. It was the first time Twitter had challenged his posts.
According to the senators, the protections afforded by Section 230 are not absolute or unconditional. “While social media companies enjoy their special status under Section 230, it is questionable that they are living up to their obligations when they blur the lines between distributor and publisher by favoring one political point of view over another,” they wrote in the letter.
Explaining further, the lawmakers said social media companies have become involved in a range of editorial and promotional activity; like publishers, they monetize, edit, and otherwise editorialize user content.
They called for a fresh look at Section 230 and to interpret the vague standard of “good faith” with specific guidelines and direction.
They called on the FCC to clearly define the framework under which technology firms, including social media companies, receive protections under Section 230.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai had earlier stated in 2018 that he did not see a role for the agency to regulate websites like Facebook Inc, Alphabet Inc’s Google and Twitter. He declined to comment on potential actions in response to Trump’s executive order.