Following Twitter’s fact checking of Donald Trump earlier this year, the US president attempted to limit the protections of social media platforms by trying to appose Section 230 of the United States 1996 Communications Decency Act.
The latest chapter in this saga has seen the Trump administration file a petition asking the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to drum up new rules clarifying aspects of Section 230. To be fear Section 230 was brought about before the social media era, so reevaluating at the rules might prove worthwhile.
Whether it will be done to empower the Trump administration’s intention remains to be seen.
The aspect within Section 230 that is specifically being looked states that, “no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”
This means that social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube cannot be held responsible for the actions of their users.
While this means that president Trump cannot bring actions against them, it also means those social media platforms do not have to regulate or police their respective user communities.
This particular aspect has seen the likes of Facebook take a divisive approach to hate speech and violence on its platform, with YouTube on the other hand proving quite confusing in terms of its guidelines and protocols.
As such, the Trump administration’s desire to get clearer definitions added to Section 230 has some merit, its application, however, could prove more nefarious.
This appears to be something that the FCC is acutely aware of, with commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel commenting to that effect.
“While social media can be frustrating, turning the FCC into the President’s speech police is not the answer. The FCC needs to reject this effort to deploy the federal government against free expression online,” she noted.
“In the United States we are a democratic, open society in which people can hold their government accountable, even if imperfectly. Whether we can keep it that way depends on the survival of a robust, independent digital space for activism and public discourse. These spaces only thrive if we say no to the President’s invitation to make our networks less open and more closed to civic debate,” Rosenworcel concluded.
We tend to agree with the commissioner, but we’ll have to wait to see how the FCC reacts to the petition in coming days.