Some slopes are really slippery. Two years ago Twitter banned conspiracy theorist Alex Jones from its platform, claiming that his account “violated its policy of abusive behavior. This month, Twitter blocked the accounts of White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, the official account of the Team Trump campaign and even the New York Post for publishing emails that strongly suggested that Hunter Biden was peddling influence and sending bribes to former Vice President Joe Biden. In other words, Twitter is interfering with the Biden Harris ticket.
Something is wrong, and it looks like there is finally an impetus to use legislation to bring these arrogant technology giants under control. The Senate Judiciary Committee has just voted to subpoena Jack Dorsey of Twitter and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook to explain to Congress why their companies are interfering in the election.
The recent actions of Twitter have also highlighted long-standing complaints about Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. In the process, it has also spawned defenders of the Act who insist that it “works” and that there is “no quick fix” for a love affair that is one-sided in favor of the tech giants.
This is wrong. Section 230 “works” only in so far as it gives the tech platforms carte blanche to operate their platforms without being restricted by tort law. In the early days of the Internet, this was justifiable to make room for innovation, experimentation – and even protection. But today, social media is a mature market, and Section 230’s liability protection promotes censorship more than anything else. The shield also acts like a sword – it gives technology giants the power to censor certain spokespersons with arbitrarily applied and unexplained community standards. It is time for Congress to pass a bill that reforms Section 230 and protects the right of Americans to speak freely online without fear of being excluded from public discourse.
Critics of the Section 230 reform often focus on defending the difference between publisher and platform, arguing the importance of not treating social media platforms as “publishers or spokespersons” of the content published on their platforms. But the real problem with the statute lies elsewhere.
Section 230(c)(2) shields social media platforms from liability if they act “in good faith” to restrict or remove material they consider “objectionable. This provision has three basic problems: it does not define “in good faith”, it allows platforms to remove “otherwise objectionable” content, and it gives platforms carte blanche to determine what is considered “objectionable” content.
The Department of Justice, headed by Attorney General Bill Barr, has proposed a bill to address these issues.
The proposal of the Ministry of Justice