An op-ed in the Wall Street Journal argues that the legal privileges enjoyed by social media companies like Twitter and Facebook, which grant them legal immunity for the vast majority of their users’ content, should be conditional on those platforms upholding free speech.
It comes in the same week that Democratic Senator Al Franken called for the regulation of tech giants, stating that “no one company should have the power to choose what people see.”
Twitter’s history of censoring content—such as when it blocked (though eventually restored) a pro-life ad by Rep. Marsha Blackburn and suspended Trump adviser Roger Stone’s account on Oct. 28—raises doubts as to whether these new rules will be applied fairly and consistently. The Anti-Defamation League, a member of Twitter’s Trust and Safety Council, includes the Confederate flag and Pepe the Frog in its database of hate symbols.
Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act grants “interactive computer services,” such as Twitter, Google, YouTube and Facebook, near total immunity for their users’ content. They have no liability resulting from anything that their users tweet or post. This is an extraordinary gift to internet companies that other industries do not enjoy. Newspapers can be held liable for the content of classified ads, and even a tavern can be liable for the graffiti scrawled on its bathroom stall.
Congress justified this gift on the grounds that “the Internet and other interactive computer services offer a forum for a true diversity of political discourse.” But with many of these internet services now restricting political discourse, Congress should condition its largesse: Section 230 immunity should be available only to internet companies that do not engage in prohibiting viewpoint discrimination against their users. Enabling a few gigantic internet firms to use their dominant social-media platforms to silence views with which they disagree counters the act’s very purpose.
Read the full piece at the Wall Street Journal (paywalled).