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THE NEUTRAL ZONE

On Wednesday, the Justice Department proposed a series of recommendations regarding reforms to “realign the scope” of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996. Section 230 currently “provides immunity to online platforms from civil liability based on third-party content and for the removal of content in certain circumstances.” 

In a press release, Attorney General William Barr stated, “We must shape the incentives for companies to create a safer environment, which is what Section 230 was originally intended to do.” The four central tenets of the proposed alterations are “incentivizing platforms to address illicit content, promoting online discourse and greater transparency, clarifying federal government enforcement capabilities, and promoting competition.”

The proposal follows an executive order signed by President Trump in May that classified social media platforms as “publishers” that are “exposed to liability like any traditional editor and publisher that is not an online provider.” It also follows calls to create an anti-bias commission, as well as threats to “close down” social media platforms following the addition of a fact-check label to two of President Trump’s tweets.

President Trump and Republicans are not alone in calling for alterations to Section 230. In a January 19 interview with The New York Times, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden stated that Section 230 “immediately should be revoked” due the potential propagation of misinformation on platforms such as Facebook.

MEDIA PERSPECTIVE

DOJ proposes legislation to hold Big Tech accountable for ‘illicit activity’ on sites – Fox News – 6/17/2020
The Justice Department’s proposals, unveiled Wednesday afternoon, want online platforms to better police their sites for illicit and harmful material, and to take a more objective approach in deciding what content they deem objectionable and decide to take down. The DOJ, in a news release, said it was calling for lawmakers to “update the outdated immunity for online platforms” under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996.

BREAKING: U.S. Justice Department To Propose Rolling Back Protections For Big Tech – The Daily Wire – 6/17/2020
Section 230 protects a wide variety of web services, platforms, and content providers from liability for outside content that passes through their servers. The law, passed in the early days of the internet, is a key legal protection for large social media platforms and internet search engines. Any change in the law’s protections could drastically affect the way those companies operate.

Justice Dept. Urges Rolling Back Legal Shield for Tech Companies – The New York Times – 6/17/2020
The proposal is based on a 10-month investigation into online platforms and their record on monitoring and ridding sites of harmful content, including child exploitation and pornography. Earlier this year, Mr. Barr also instructed his staff to review Section 230, which was created to help encourage the growth of internet start-ups. In February, Mr. Barr held a daylong workshop focused on how to revise the law.

Justice Department reveals proposals to curb platforms’ protections – Axios – 6/17/2020
The Justice Department is urging Congress to limit the legal protections enjoyed by online platforms, seeking to narrow the law so they shoulder more responsibility for what appears on their websites. The DOJ’s move is the latest in escalating attacks by lawmakers and the Trump administration on the law that gives websites protection from liability over content their users post.

INFLUENCER PERSPECTIVE

Ryan Fournier on Twitter, 6/17/2020: BREAKING: The Department of Justice will be reviewing Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. This allows for Facebook and Twitter to have unfettered legal immunity. It’s time to end social media censorship!

Eric Goldman on Twitter, 6/17/2020: An incomplete list of people who took concrete steps to destroy #Section230 just this morning: Four senators, the US DOJ, African-American YouTubers

Kelly Loeffler on Twitter, 6/18/2020: Section 230 was written in 1996, before Big Tech companies gained the influence they have today. It’s time for a fresh look. Conservative free speech is under fire & it’s completely unacceptable. #gapol #gasen

Dean DeChiaro on Twitter, 6/17/2020: DOJ has released its legislative proposal for overhauling Section 230, the Trump administration’s latest effort to take on social media companies the president has accused of anti-conservative bias

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