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FCC Will Move to ‘Clarify’ Section 230 Protections for Social Media Companies

FCC chairman Ajit Pai testifies during an oversight hearing held by the U.S. Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee in Washington, D.C., June 24, 2020. (Alex Wong/Pool via Reuters)

Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai said Thursday he will move to “clarify the meaning” of Section 230, the law which protects social media companies from being legally liable for the content their users post.

“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,” Pai said in a tweet.

“The Commission’s General Counsel has informed me that the FCC has the legal authority to interpret Section 230. Consistent with this advice, I intend to move forward with a rulemaking to clarify its meaning,” he added.

The chairman’s announcement comes after news that Facebook and Twitter had worked to suppress a New York Post report based on emails which suggest the younger Biden may have made an introduction between his father, then- Vice President Joe Biden, and a Ukrainian adviser to Burisma Holdings in 2015. The authenticity of the emails has not been confirmed.

President Trump and other Republicans have sought to limit the protections afforded to the social media companies under the law over claims that the platforms censor conservative points of view.

The New York Post report’s treatment has increased the urgency of the calls for reform, with President Trump on Thursday saying, “If Big Tech persists in coordination with the mainstream media, we must immediately strip them of their Section 230 protection.”

Earlier on Thursday, Senate Republicans called on the CEOs of both social media platforms to testify before the committee and said they were prepared to issue subpoenas to compel testimony regarding their decisions to censor negative stories about Democrats.

“This is election interference and we’re 19 days out from an election,” Senator Ted Cruz (R., Tex.) said. “It has no precedent in the history of democracy. The Senate Judiciary Committee wants to know what the hell is going on.”

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