Is Trump right Section 230 is a serious threat to our nation?
- Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act protects internet free speech, stating, '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.'
- Wednesday, December 2, President Trump threatened to veto the National Defense Authorization Act unless Congress repealed Section 230 which he stated as a “liability shielding gift” to companies like Facebook and Twitter.
- Facebook and Twitter have been attempting to halt the spread of misinformation regarding mail-in-ballots, the election, and coronavirus with warning labels.
- According to Pew Research Center, almost 40% of US adults believe it is probably that social media companies censor political viewpoints, this view stronger with Republicans than Democrats.
Holding social media platforms to the same standards as legitimate news outlets is imperative in protecting free speech. Considering that mainstream platforms such as Twitter and Facebook have infiltrated Americans' technological devices to the point that many use such as 'news,' it is understandably concerning.
The fact remains that the aforementioned platforms have been arguably acting as news publications when they are not. This is where technological accountability comes in from a legal perspective and where President Trump has every right to enforce such in his recent threat to repeal Section 230.
Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act 'provides legal protection for technology companies over third parties and users.' Since the act was initially enacted, social media sites have taken on a new life in that they are censoring conservative views. In 2018, Facebook 'purged more than 800 US publishers and accounts' posting political content that the platform disagreed with. Most recently, Twitter censored a New York Post article containing incriminating information on Hunter Biden.
The sites have previously claimed that 'they are only trying to stop the spread of false claims and disinformation;' however, policing this is highly subjective at best, as many 'claims' are merely a matter of opinion. In this way, the sites 'operate more like a publisher' rather than a 'neutral platform,' further disqualifying themselves from Section 230 protections.
President Trump's recent threat to veto Section 230 regarding the National Defense Authorization Act is absolutely warranted. It shows that he takes the issue seriously and will not stand for the constant First Amendment threat on behalf of these companies.
As someone who frequently posts bizarre, inaccurate, and inflammatory material on social media, it’s somewhat surprising that President Trump wants to take the ill-guided step of eliminating section 230 and the protections it provides to tech companies. The president seems focused on section 230 as relating only to social media platforms, while the reality is that removing these protections would have far-ranging consequences for Google, Amazon, and Yelp, each of which views the protections as central to their businesses.
It’s simply impossible for social media companies to police and moderate all of the content produced on their platforms because of sheer volume. In May of 2020, there were, on average, six thousand tweets every second of the day. Policing this level of content would require an enormous team of moderators. Using AI or algorithms is not an option for moderating content because questions of free speech are delicate and nuanced, needing to be examined by skilled and sensitive people. Because of this, companies would most likely drastically reduce users’ access and ability to post; section 230 provides companies with the legal protection to allow widespread use of their platforms.
President Trump is wrong that section 230 is a threat to our nation because it doesn’t give tech giants total immunity. These companies are responsible for identifying and removing content such as child pornography and copyright issues. Further, Congress could pass additional legislation to require these companies to restrict content such as violent, hateful, or other forms of extreme speech without eliminating section 230.