In the wake of President Trump’s executive order targeting social media companies, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has proposed rolling back tech protections.
The issue started several weeks ago when Twitter, for the first time ever, fact-checked Trump on two of his tweets. As a result, Twitter suddenly found itself in the crosshairs of the president, who wasted no time signing an executive order to target the legal protections tech companies enjoy.
Now the DOJ has taken up the banner, proposing changes to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996. Section 230 largely grants immunity to tech companies for what their users post on their platforms. This immunity has helped tech and social media companies to grow, with minimal concern about the legal repercussions of what their users say.
“When it comes to issues of public safety, the government is the one who must act on behalf of society at large. Law enforcement cannot delegate our obligations to protect the safety of the American people purely to the judgment of profit-seeking private firms. We must shape the incentives for companies to create a safer environment, which is what Section 230 was originally intended to do,” said Attorney General William P. Barr. “Taken together, these reforms will ensure that Section 230 immunity incentivizes online platforms to be responsible actors. These reforms are targeted at platforms to make certain they are appropriately addressing illegal and exploitive content while continuing to preserve a vibrant, open, and competitive internet.”
The proposed changes center around four primary goals, including incentivizing platforms to address illicit content, being more transparent in how content is moderated, clarifying the government’s enforcement powers and promoting competition.
It remains to be seen if any proposed changes will gain enough traction in Congress. Section 230 has been around as long as it has specifically because navigating these issues can quickly turn into a quagmire.