U.S. justice department proposes curbs on social media protections

Yolanda Curtis
September 25, 2020

To remedy this, the proposal revises the language of Section 230 and replaces vague terms that may be used to shield arbitrary content moderation decisions with more concrete language that gives greater guidance to platforms, users and courts.

Separate from the debate over Section 230, large tech companies are also facing scrutiny in Washington over their market power.

For too long Section 230 has provided a shield for online platforms to operate with impunity.

The bill also contains certain legal exceptions that would allow users to launch civil lawsuits against online platforms if they host illicit content on their services. "Nor should a platform receive blanket immunity for continuing to host known criminal content on its services, despite repeated pleas from victims to take action". In June, the Justice Department proposed that Congress will take up legislation to curb this immunity.

The Justice Department's proposition would require congressional approval, and is not most likely to see action till next year at the earliest. "In all of human history, no single entity has ever had more control over information than Google does right now, so if you're anxious about the concentration of power in the hands of a few unaccountable actors, and you very much should be, nobody has more unchecked power than Google does". They could also face liability if they don't spell out content-moderation practices and follow them consistently, including by explaining the basis for decisions to restrict users' access.


Congress has yet to comment on whether they will consider implementing changes to Section 230.

The Internet Association, a trade group that represents tech giants such as Facebook and Google LLC, said in a statement to CNBC today that "it is because of, not in spite of Section 230 that so many voices from across the political spectrum can express their thoughts online".

Facebook left untouched a similar post about the protests, calling it political speech but later clashed with Mr. Trump when it removed some Trump campaign ads and some of the president's statements about the coronavirus.

In late May, not long after Twitter fact-checked his tweets for the first time, Trump signed an executive order that asked the Commerce Department to petition the Federal Communications Commission to limit the scope of Section 230.

Trump has previously accused Twitter, Google, and Facebook of systematically discriminating against him.


The administration's moves to target Section 230 don't have direct consequences for social-media companies in the near term.

"Online censorship goes far beyond the issue of free speech".

Trump often claims online platforms are biased against conservatives, but has provided minimal evidence backing this up. "It's also one of protecting consumers and ensuring they are informed of their rights and resources to fight back under the law", White House spokesman Judd Deere said before the president's Wednesday meeting with Republican state attorneys general.

"We are watching them very closely during this election cycle", Mr. Trump told reporters at a White House event to present the proposed legislation on Wednesday. "And yet, irony of ironies, thanks to a special carve-out Google has received from the United States Congress (something called Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, remember that), Google itself is not responsible for content on its platform because the Congress says it doesn't have to be". "I don't look at the Section 230 proposals as serious proposals".

Meanwhile, many Democrats say online platforms don't do enough to prevent the spread of hate speech and conspiracy theories.


Alex Leary contributed to this article.

Other reports by iNewsToday

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