The FCC chairman released a statement Thursday saying he plans to move forward with efforts to clarify Section 230, the provision of a 1996 law that grants immunity to Internet companies such as Facebook and Twitter on how they moderate content.
President Ajit Pai released a statement as President Donald Trump and his allies criticized Twitter and Facebook for steps they took to restrict the sharing of a New York Post article on Hunter Biden. Twitter turned off links to the story and the Trump campaign said his account was briefly locked out after trying to share it.
“While elected officials are considering amending the law, the question remains: what does Article 230 currently mean?” Pai said in a statement. “Many are advancing an overly broad interpretation that in some cases protects social media companies from consumer protection laws in a way that has no basis in the text of Article 230. Advocate General for the Commission informed me that the FCC has the legal authority to interpret section 230. In accordance with this advice, I intend to move forward with a regulation to clarify its meaning. “
Related Story President Trump calls for repeal of Section 230 as Facebook Yanks, Twitter marks its COVID posts
He added: “Throughout my tenure at the Federal Communications Commission, I have favored regulatory parity, transparency and freedom of expression. Social media companies have a First Amendment right to free speech. But they do not have the First Amendment right to special immunity denied to other media, such as newspapers and broadcasters.
In May, after Twitter slapped a tag on two of Trump’s tweets over fears it was election misinformation, the president issued an executive order ordering federal agencies to amend Section 230, which was passed in 1996 under the decency of communications. Act. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration then asked the FCC to review it.
“Members of all three branches of the federal government have expressed serious concerns about the prevailing interpretation of the immunity set out in Section 230 of the Communications Act,” Pai said. “There is bipartisan support in Congress to reform the law. The US Department of Commerce has asked the Commission to “clarify the ambiguities in Section 230”. And earlier this week, United States Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas noted that courts have relied on “arguments of policy and purpose to grant sweeping protections to internet platforms” which appear to go far beyond the actual text of the provision.
Twitter said the Post’s story included material that violated its policy on pirated materials. The story included images of emails that allegedly came from Hunter Biden’s laptop, dropped off at a technician in Delaware. But the emails have not been verified as genuine.
The Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), will vote on Tuesday on whether to issue a subpoena to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey over restrictions on the Post’s article.
Some Democrats have also called for changing Section 230 – but for opposite reasons. As Trump and his allies claim Section 230 gave platforms the license to stifle right-wing content, which social media giants deny, Democrats believe Silicon Valley should take bigger action to fight disinformation.
But Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democrat appointed to the committee, criticized Pai for the statement.
“The timing of this effort is absurd. The FCC has nothing to do with the policing of the president’s speech, ”she said in a statement.
The commission is made up of three Republicans and two Democrats. Two GOP appointees, Pai and Commissioner Brendan Carr, are supportive of the future. The third, Michael O’Rielly, expressed some skepticism about such an effort, only to have his FCC re-appointment revoked. Trump then appointed telecommunications attorney Nathan Simington, senior advisor to NTIA, to fill the post. A hearing has not yet been scheduled on his nomination, although Trump tweeted last week: “Republicans need to get smart and confirm Nate Simington to the FCC ASAP!”
On Thursday, Trump wrote on Twitter: “If Big Tech persists, in coordination with the mainstream media, we must immediately strip them of their protections under Section 230. When the government granted those protections, it created a monster!
Elizabeth Banker, deputy general counsel for the Internet Association, which represents big tech companies, said in a statement that “the constitution guarantees freedom of speech, not freedom of access.
“The First Amendment protects the ability of every private business to set and enforce rules for acceptable content on their services,” she said, while arguing that the agency lacks the power to make the changes to section 230.
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