For the entirety of the internet, social media companies have relied on legal barriers that keep them from being liable for moderating user-created content. However, this Thursday, US President Donald Trump signed an executive order that could strip away those barriers.
The executive order specifically attacks Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. For companies like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, this act is essential for keeping them from legal trouble based on how they regulate content users upload.
What will the executive order do?
Essentially, the draft of the executive order argues that platforms like YouTube give up their rights to legal protection when they moderate content. For instance, when Twitter adds a fact-checking disclaimer, Twitter is giving up its legal protections when attempting to modify what the President wrote.
“The choices Twitter makes when it chooses to edit, blacklist, shadowban are editorial decisions, pure and simple,” Trump said during the signing. “In those moments, Twitter ceases to be a neutral public platform and they become an editor with a viewpoint. And I think we can say that about others also, whether you’re looking at Google, whether you’re looking at Facebook.”
The response to the executive order
Both tech companies and internet rights advocates They believe that Section 230 was designed to protect internet companies from being sued for the content they host. In addition to that, they are freer to make moderation choices without being liable for the decisions they make.
Google responded to the order: “We have clear content policies and we enforce them without regard to political viewpoint,” a Google spokesperson said. “Our platforms have empowered a wide range of people and organizations from across the political spectrum, giving them a voice and new ways to reach their audiences. Undermining Section 230 in this way would hurt America’s economy and its global leadership on internet freedom.”
What will happen?
As of now, it isn’t clear if the White House will be legally able to enforce the executive order. We will have to wait and see if anything from the executive order comes and if social media companies will be held more accountable for the content they regulate on their platforms.
Image courtesy: White House