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Two can play Section 230 game: Trump’s EO uses key statute against social media censorship

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29.05.2020

Though the First Amendment to the US Constitution prohibits the government from restricting freedom of speech, social media platforms have long argued this does not apply to them as private companies. The executive order signed by Trump on Thursday points out that their status as platforms, and immunity from endless civil lawsuits, depends on their removal of controversial content being done “in good faith.”

The order instructs federal agencies to focus on that qualifier when considering Section 230 (C) of 47 US Code to social media companies, noting that this clearly does not apply when their practices are “deceptive” or “pretextual,” inconsistent with their own terms of service, and used to stifle viewpoints with which they disagree.

Until now, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and others could have it both ways, insisting they were “platforms” and therefore not liable for user-generated content, while acting as "publishers" and actively deciding which content they would allow, using entirely arbitrary and ever-changing rules.

The issue became political after 2016, when Trump used social platforms to bypass the establishment media that overwhelmingly favored – and endorsed – his opponent. The ‘Russiagate’ conspiracy theory wasn’t just used in an attempt to get Trump out of office, but also to pressure social media giants to censor viewpoints the establishment did not like – overwhelmingly targeting Trump........

© RT.com