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Thought Police Target the Liability Protections of Twitter and Facebook

Senator Amy Klobuchar wants to rein in Covid-related misinformation. Her bill would create an exception to Section 230 shielding social media platforms from lawsuits.
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Section 230

What is Section 230?

Section 230 defines tech companies as private platforms rather than publishers. 

The law also shields social media companies from being held liable for what their users post. 

Misinformation Police

Please consider Bill Would Strip Social Media of Protections for Health Misinformation

“Earlier this year, I called on Facebook and Twitter to remove accounts that are responsible for producing the majority of misinformation about the coronavirus, but we need a long-term solution,” she said in a statement. “This legislation will hold online platforms accountable for the spread of health-related misinformation.”

President Biden said last week that Facebook and other companies were “killing people” by serving as platforms for misinformation about the Covid-19 vaccine. He later clarified his comments by saying that he wasn’t accusing Facebook of killing people, but that he instead wanted the company to “do something about the misinformation, the outrageous information about the vaccine.”

Republicans and Democrats Hate Section 230

Both Republicans and Democrats want to repeal or replace section 230. It might seem with both sides in agreement that it would be easy to kill.

However, Democrats want more thought police while Republicans believe section 230 is an attack on freedom of speech.

The Texas Tribune notes it will be Extremely Tough to Change 230.

David A. Anderson, a retired law professor at the University of Texas School of Law with expertise in mass communication law, told The Texas Tribune that thanks to Section 230, social media companies don’t have any legal responsibility to moderate content, even conspiracy theories, nor are they required to be “politically neutral” under the law.

“Republicans and Democrats both want to repeal Section 230, but they want to replace it in diametrically opposed ways,” said Mark Lemley, a Stanford Law School professor. “Democrats want more content moderation targeting hate speech and misinformation. Republicans want to apply the First Amendment to social media sites even if they are private actors.”

In October, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz opened a Senate Commerce Committee hearing with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey by attacking them as enemies of the First Amendment and free speech.

“The three witnesses we have before the committee today collectively pose the single biggest threat to free speech in America and the greatest threat we have to free and fair elections,” Cruz said. “Of the three players before us, Twitter’s conduct has by far been the most egregious.”

In fact, the basic legal rights of private media corporations allow them to remove content or user accounts. Section 230 only goes an extra step to protect such companies from lawsuits over what their users post, according to experts. For example, if user accounts on Twitter had advocated violence at the Capitol and Section 230 hadn’t been in place, the platform could have been held legally liable, Anderson said.

Simply repealing Section 230 would not be viable because it “would probably spell the end of most social media sites,” Anderson said. And changing the law could get very complicated, he said, because the benefits and drawbacks of communication on social media remain so intertwined.

Trump Sues Big Tech, What's It Really About?

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On July 9 I commented Trump Sues Big Tech, What's It Really About?

First Amendment attorney Floyd Abrams, a constitutional expert and author of “Soul of the First Amendment” called Mr. Trump’s suits against the three platforms “irredeemably frivolous” and that Section 230 of the Communications Act provides social-media outlets with more protection than the First Amendment requires. 

The First Amendment protects individuals from government censorship. It says nothing about the rights of governments or politicians to say whatever they want on private businesses or private forums. 

There is no infringement of free speech. 

What's It Really About?

  • Trump's lawsuit has nothing to do with the Constitution. Rather, it has everything to do with the Court of Public Opinion.
  • Blocked from Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, Trump is no longer in the limelight. He desperately wants back in.
  • Without access to social media, especially with mainstream media ignoring him almost totally, Trump's fundraising ability is crippled.

Constitutionally, his lawsuit is frivolous, But in the Court of Public Opinion his lawsuit is anything but frivolous. 

How About Doing Nothing?

With the thought police demanding more restrictions and Trumpians demanding the removal of all restrictions, consider the possibility the law is right where it should be.