On Monday, the Department of Commerce, as directed by President Donald J. Trump's Executive Order on Preventing Online Censorship, filed a petition to clarify the scope of Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act. The petition requests that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) clarify that Section 230 does not permit social media companies that alter or editorialize users' speech to escape civil liability. The petition also requests that the FCC clarify when an online platform curates content in "good faith," and requests transparency requirements on their moderation practices, similar to requirements imposed on broadband service providers under Title I of the Communications Act. President Trump will continue to fight back against unfair, un-American, and politically biased censorship of Americans online.
The original order was signed on May 28th of this year, but yesterday's effort directs the FCC to clarify that social media companies that editorialize or alter (or delete or block, by extension) users' speech cannot escape civil liability. The president spoke about this when he signed the order:
One would be led to believe that this executive order would immediately guarantee that Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, et. al., would immediately release their censorship actions taken against their subscribers. However, at the time of this writing, I remain in a state we call "Facebook Jail" where I am unable to post articles from The Duran across to Facebook interest groups I do not personally administer. The censorship as of this moment appears to be alive and well, and further so, as the CEO's interviewed in yesterday's hearing all denied that their companies practice censorship, despite an enormous body of evidence to the contrary.
It would seem that they are not going to let go of their power easily.
Today, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) filed a petition for rulemaking with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on behalf of U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross seeking to clarify regulations related to section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
The petition was filed in response to the May 2020 Executive Order on Preventing Online Censorship. It calls on the FCC to make clear when online platforms can claim section 230 protections if they restrict access to content in a manner not specifically outlined under the Act.
"Many Americans rely on online platforms to stay informed and connected, sharing their thoughts and ideas on issues important to them, which can oftentimes lead to free and open debate around public policies and upcoming elections," said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. "It has long been the policy of the United States to foster a robust marketplace of ideas on the Internet and the free flow of information around the world. President Trump is committed to protecting the rights of all Americans to express their views and not face unjustified restrictions or selective censorship from a handful of powerful companies."
The petition also seeks further clarity from the FCC:
Whether, and to what degree, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act provides protection for social media's content moderation decisions
The conditions under which content moderation and editorial decisions by social media companies shape content to such a degree that section 230 no longer protects them
Social media's disclosure obligations with respect to their content moderation practices
The full text of the petition itself can be read by following this linked text. We reprint the comments from Section III of this document, entitled "The Commission Should Act to Protect Free Speech Online" below.
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