The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Ajit Pai, issued a statement on Thursday sending his intention to “clarify the meaning of Section 230.”
Pai said that “Social media companies have a First Amendment right to free speech. But they do not have a First Amendment right to a special immunity denied to other media outlets, such as newspapers and broadcasters.”
This clarification is in light of the concerns that have been raised by all three branches of the federal government about Section 230, which is intended to give protections to online platforms so that they are not liable for the speech of their users.
I intend to move forward with an @FCC rulemaking to clarify the meaning of #Section230.
Read my full statement below. pic.twitter.com/LhUz5XMdSC
— Ajit Pai (@AjitPaiFCC) October 15, 2020
“There is bipartisan support in Congress to reform the law,” Pai said. He noted that the US Department of Commerce has also petitioned the FCC to “clarify the ambiguities in Section 230.”
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has called Section 230 into question, saying that “Extending §230 immunity beyond the natural reading of the text can have serious consequences,” Thomas wrote. He said that it would “behoove” his colleagues on the Court to consider reading the law along more narrow parameters, when a case comes before them.
President Donald Trump has consistently lambasted the law, saying that it needs to be repealed to account for the power over free speech that the social media and big tech companies have. In September, the Justice Department proposed revised legislation for Section 230, on behalf of the Trump administration.
“For too long Section 230 has provided a shield for online platforms to operate with impunity,” Attorney General Bill Barr wrote. “Ensuring that the internet is a safe, but also vibrant, open and competitive environment is vitally important to America. We therefore urge Congress to make these necessary reforms to Section 230 and begin to hold online platforms accountable both when they unlawfully censor speech and when they knowingly facilitate criminal activity online.”
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has also raised concerns about Section 230, and she has had first had experience with slander on social media platforms when a video circulated in which she appeared to be drunk, and slurring her words, but it was really just slowed down.
It was in 2018 that an amendment was made to Section 230, which removed some of the immunity protections for big tech platforms, specifically as regards sex trafficking and child pornography.
Pai wrote that “As elected officials consider whether to change the law, the question remains: What does Section 230 currently mean?” He said that the “FCC has the legal authority to interpret Section 230,” and that as such, he intends “to move ahead with rulemaking to clarify its meaning.”
This new resolution from the FCC Chairman comes as Twitter and Facebook knowingly, intentionally, and righteously suppressed and censored articles from the New York Post that alleged corruption and financial mis-dealings on the part of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.
This intentional censorship by big tech companies endeavoring to stifle misinformation has been called out as election interference. The US Senate is moving to subpoena Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to ask him to explain why his company censored the New York Post, and articles alleging misdoings by Joe Biden and his family.