FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced on Thursday afternoon that he intends to move forward with an FCC “rulemaking” to clarify the meaning of Section 230 following widespread accusations this week that tech companies are censoring news stories that are damaging to the presidential campaign of Democrat Joe Biden.
“Members of all three branches of the federal government have expressed serious concerns about the prevailing interpretation of the immunity set forth in Section 230 of the Communications Act,” Pai said in a statement. “There is bipartisan support in Congress to reform the law. The U.S. Department of Commerce has petitioned the Commission to ‘clarify ambiguities in section 230.’ And earlier this week, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas pointed out that courts have relied upon ‘policy and purpose arguments to grant sweeping protections to Internet platforms’ that appear to go far beyond the actual text of the provision.”
“As elected officials consider whether to change the law, the question remains: What does Section 230 currently mean? Many advance an overly broad interpretation that in some cases shields social media companies from consumer protection laws in a way that has no basis in the text of Section 230,” Pai continued. “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.”
“Throughout my tenure at the Federal Communications Commission, I have favored regulatory parity, transparency, and free expression,” the statement concluded. “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.”
The move by the tech companies to censor reports from the New York Post about the business dealings of Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, have spurred top officials to accuse those companies of interfering in the U.S. election.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) said, “We have seen big tech, we’ve seen Twitter and Facebook actively interfering in this election in a way that has no precedent in the history of our country.”
Officials from the Trump campaign, Donald Trump Jr., and other law makers have also accused the companies of “election interference.”
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