Conservatives have long complained about perceived bias against dissenting thought among left-leaning tech and social media companies. While there appeared to be little critics were able to do in response, U.S. Attorney General William Barr appears poised to change that.
Barr is recommending new legislation to repeal protections social media companies currently enjoy under federal law, as reported by the Washington Examiner.
“Section 230 has provided a shield”
That legal shield currently afforded to social media firms means they are not held liable for content users post on their sites — provided the companies are acting as neutral platforms instead of publishers that promote some views at the expense of others. Barr argued that these corporations do not abide by its rules and should therefore no longer be allowed to operate under its protection.
“For too long Section 230 has provided a shield for online platforms to operate with impunity,” he wrote. “Ensuring that the internet is a safe, but also vibrant, open and competitive environment is vitally important to America.”
The attorney general went on to call on lawmakers to start the process by enacting reforms to the current legislation.
Doing so, he argued, would “begin to hold online platforms accountable both when they unlawfully censor speech and when they knowingly facilitate criminal activity online.”
“To nurture emerging internet businesses”
In his statement, Barr laid out a series of proposals aimed at “promoting transparency and open discourse” while “addressing illicit activity online.”
President Donald Trump announced an executive order in May meant to prevent alleged censorship by social media companies. The Department of Justice also issued a report a short time later regarding proposed reforms to the Communications Decency Act.
Specifically, the agency concluded in June that “Section 230 was originally enacted to protect developing technology by providing that online platforms were not liable for the third-party content on their services or for their removal of such content in certain circumstances.”
That immunity, the department determined, “was meant to nurture emerging internet businesses and to overrule a judicial precedent that rendered online platforms liable for all third-party content on their services if they restricted some harmful content.”
A quarter of a century later, that world no longer exists. Many critics of the current social media environment are sure to celebrate the Trump administration’s continuing efforts to hold these powerful companies accountable.