Saturday, January 9, 2021

FCC To Drop Section 230 Issue

The FCC won't move forward with an attempt to regulate how online media companies treat speech by users, outgoing chairman Ajit Pai said this week.

Mediapost reports the comment came during an interview for C-SPAN's “The Communicators' series.” Pai said there wasn't enough time to complete the necessary administrative procedures before President-elect Joe Biden takes office. Pai previously said he will leave the agency on January 20, the same day as Biden's inauguration.

In October, Pai said the FCC would consider issuing regulations to “clarify” Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act -- the 25-year-old law that protects internet companies from liability for decisions about how to treat content created by users.

Pai took that step after the President Trump issued an executive order directing the Commerce Department to petition the FCC for rules to limit tech companies' immunity when they restrict or remove users' posts without a "reasoned explanation.”

Section 230 immunizes companies from lawsuits for removing or placing warning labels on users' speech -- including comments that violate the companies' editorial policies. (Even without Section 230, companies have a First Amendment right to decide what type of speech to ban from its platform. But litigating a First Amendment issue can be more complicated and expensive for companies than obtaining immunity under Section 230.)

Trump's executive order regarding Section 230, issued in May, came shortly after Twitter alerted users that his posts contained dubious statements about voter fraud.

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