Federal Communication Commission chairman Ajit Pai announced Thursday that he intends to “clarify” the meaning of Section 230 of the Communication Decency Act, which indemnifies internet companies from liability over content posted by their users.
Pai’s announcement comes one day after Twitter prohibited users from posting links to a New York Post story about Hunter Biden, former Vice President Joe Biden and the Ukrainian gas company Burisma.
Twitter’s suppression of the story led President Donald Trump to call for the repeal of Section 230.
So terrible that Facebook and Twitter took down the story of “Smoking Gun” emails related to Sleepy Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, in the @NYPost. It is only the beginning for them. There is nothing worse than a corrupt politician. REPEAL SECTION 230!!! https://t.co/g1RJFpIVUZ
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 14, 2020
“Social media companies have a First Amendment right to free speech,” Pai said in a statement.
“But they do not have a First Amendment right to a special immunity denied to other media outlets, such as newspapers and broadcasters.”
Pai said members of all three branches of the federal government have expressed concerns about the immunities set forth in the provision.
“There is bipartisan support in Congress to reform the law,” Pai said.
Pai said that the U.S. Department of Commerce had petitioned the FCC to “clarify ambiguities in [Section] 230.”
Justice Clarence Thomas has argued that courts have granted sweeping protections to internet companies “that appear to go far beyond the actual text” of Section 230, Pai added.
Pai said that as Congress decides whether to change the law, the FCC’s general counsel has advised him that his commission has the legal authority to interpret the current meaning of the statute.
“Consistent with this advice, I intend to move forward with a rulemaking to clarify its meaning,” Pai said.
Read my full statement below. pic.twitter.com/LhUz5XMdSC
— Ajit Pai (@AjitPaiFCC) October 15, 2020
Trump said during a campaign rally on Wednesday that he would strip Section 230 protections from social media companies “unless they shape up.”
“If Big Tech persists in coordination with the mainstream media, we must immediately strip them of their Section 230 protection,” Trump said.
“We all believe in freedom of the press but don’t forget, Big Tech got something years ago that let them become Big Tech. They got total protection.”
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