President Trump held the New York Post in his hand before signing the executive order on the social network in May. Photo: AP
The discussion revolved around the topic of how to take advantage of federal legal rights, in order to undermine Article 230 of the US Media Standards Act. Article 230 protects Internet companies from accountability for user-posted content.President Trump met with 9 Republican attorneys on September 23 to discuss Article 230, after the Justice Department introduces a proposed reform of this law. The Justice Department is also reportedly preparing to file a lawsuit against Google next week. Critics accuse Google of violating antitrust laws by abusing its position in the online advertising industry and the mobile operating system and prioritizing its own business on search engines.
After the meeting, Mr Trump told reporters that conclusions could be reached in a short time. However, it is not clear what conclusion he meant. He added that the administration will monitor the activities of technology platforms before the November 3 presidential election takes place. He accused a small group of powerful tech firms for increasing their control over commerce and communications in the United States in recent years.
On the morning of September 23, the Justice Department introduced a draft amendment to Article 230. Earlier this year, Mr. Trump ordered a raid on Internet giants after Twitter labeled some of his tweets for causing confusion. on voting by mail. The draft needs to be approved by the National Assembly and may be applied as early as 2021.
The draft emphasizes that when the Internet company “intentionally distributes illegal content or improperly moderates the content, Article 230 will not protect companies from the consequences of their actions”. The Justice Department proposes a series of reforms to ensure Internet companies are transparent about their decisions when to remove content and when they should be held accountable to the statements they make. The Department also revised the definition of Article 230 in more specific language, to guide users and the courts.
In a statement, Attorney General William Barr said, the government is urging ‘Congress to carry out necessary reforms to Article 230 and begin to hold online platforms accountable, even as they censor language. illegal comment and when they knowingly facilitate serious criminal activity online ”.
In contrast, the Internet Association – which represents major Internet companies like Facebook, Amazon, and Google – argues that the Justice Department’s proposal will severely limit one’s ability to express oneself and experience a safe online experience. of everyone. Attorney Elizabeth Banker of the association said that any attempt to erase false information, manipulate the platform or bully online would lead to litigation under the new proposal.
How does Article 230 protect Facebook and Google?
The primary purpose of Article 230 is to protect the owner of any “interactive computer service” from liability of third party submissions. The idea is that it will encourage the creation of new types of services and media at the dawn of the Internet.
Article 230 took effect in 1996, is part of the Communication Standards Act. Most of the law was determined by the court to be unconstitutional on the right to freedom of expression, but Article 230 remained. In practice, this is the shield of every website, content hosting service, such as comments section under articles, social networks, video channels. They will not be sued for the user’s content.
When compiling the law, website owners worry that they can be sued if they control what appears on the website, so the law has an additional clause specifying, as long as the website acts honestly, they can remove offensive or questionable content. Users posting illegal content will be held accountable in court.
The technology industry has long viewed Article 230 as an important protective measure, although it is increasingly contested, as the power of Internet firms is stronger than ever.
Why is Article 230 born? In the early days of the Internet era, there were a number of notable lawsuits in which companies tried to suppress the wave of criticism by suing owners of platforms. For example, broker Stratton Oakmont filed a lawsuit against online service Prodigy. The court holds Prodigy accountable to a user’s defamatory comment because they are the moderators of the content.
The Internet industry worries that a slew of new services will not function if subjected to such responsibility. Finally, Congress agreed to include Article 230 in the Communications Standards Act.
President Trump and many others believe that Article 230 has given top Internet companies a great shield of protection and help them free from responsibility for what they do. Mr Trump denounced himself as a censored target of social media sites.
Article 230 is often misinterpreted as requiring companies to remain politically neutral. However, it is only intended to maintain the user’s freedom of expression.
Mr. Trump cannot change Article 230, only Congress has this authority. However, in May, he signed the social networking executive order following Twitter’s “flagging” case and affirmed that he would introduce law to cancel or weaken Article 230.