Only two days after Twitter went beyond the pale and began adding fact-check labels to President Donald Trump’s tweets, the president is set to sign an executive order that could foreshadow big changes as to how sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Google enjoy protection from liability.
In the order, Trump is directing the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to look into re-classifying these sites as publishers rather than open platforms. If the FCC changes the law as it relates to these sites, it would open some of the biggest websites in the world to defamation lawsuits and libel charges they have so far been exempt from.
The executive order would call for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to propose and clarify regulations under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a federal law largely exempting online platforms from legal liability for the material their users post. Such changes could expose tech companies to more lawsuits.
The order asks the FCC to examine whether actions related to the editing of content by social media companies should potentially lead to the firms forfeiting their protections under section 230.
It requires the agency to look at whether a social media platform uses deceptive policies to moderate content and if its policies are inconsistent with its terms of service.
The draft order also states that the White House Office of Digital Strategy will re-establish a tool to help citizens report cases of online censorship. The tool will collect complaints of online censorship and submit them to the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Welp, none of these sites can say they weren’t warned. They were. Over and over and over again. Most of their head honchos have appeared before Congress in recent years, and they’ve been told point-blank by Republican senators that they are under the gun: Stop censoring conservative speech, stop pushing your own politics, and stop letting ideological bias govern your actions. Otherwise, you’re going to wind up reclassified under FCC codes and regulations.
Unfortunately, things have only gotten worse. Google, YouTube, and Twitter, in particular, have joined the #Resistance, and they’ve decided that it’s up to them to keep Donald Trump from winning re-election. That’s all fine and well, but don’t be surprised when that decision costs you everything you ever built.
Unless, of course, these sites are ready to go to court and defend every single user who says something defamatory on their platform. Good luck with that.