Josh Hawley: Twitter Should Lose Tech Legal Immunity for Editorializing on Political Speech

Josh Hawley-Jack Dorsey AP PhotoJulio Cortez
AP Photos/Julio Cortez, Francois Mori

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) sent a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, questioning why his company should continue to receive Section 230 legal immunity when they editorialize President Donald Trump’s tweets.

Twitter decided to fact check Trump’s tweet on mail-in ballots, which Hawley charged raises “serious questions” about whether the social media giant targeted the president for political reasons.

Hawley wrote to Dorsey:

Twitter’s unprecedented decision to single out the President for disfavor, based on his political speech, is alarming. Yesterday, for the first time ever, Twitter branded the President’s tweets with a “fact check” designed to encourage readers to believe that the President’s political speech was inaccurate. Twitter’s decision to editorialize regarding the content of political speech raises questions about why Twitter should continue receiving special status and special immunity from publisher liability under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

Hawley noted that Yoel Roth, Twitter’s Head of Site Integrity, encouraged people to “fly over” states such as Missouri because fly over states allegedly “voted for a racist tangerine.” Roth also said that people that work for Trump are “actual Nazis.”

Hawley said that Twitter has yet to counter the “outright lies and propaganda by the Chinese Communist Party” and other politicians.

The Missouri populist asked Dorsey if his company plans to fact check former Vice President Joe Biden and other politicians’ potential falsehoods. He asked:

What about other candidates for political office, like former Vice-President Joe Biden? Will Twitter editorialize regularly in response to his comments on social media? Or will Twitter only go after people its employees dislike?

Hawley noted that social media giants such as Twitter enjoy a special legal immunity under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which regulates social media platforms as neutral platforms. He said that Twitter’s decision to editorialize tweets challenges the basis of the company’s Section 230 legal immunity. He explained:

Your company is treated very differently from publishers, as you know. Traditional publishers are liable when they mess up. But under Section 230, Twitter receives a special government carve-out that shields it from liability. That statute tells courts to treat Twitter like a passive distributor of third-party content. Twitter’s decision to affix its own editorial content to users’ posts brings into question the basis for that immunity.

It makes little sense to treat companies that publish their editorial comments about others’ content as if they are mere distributors. Companies that act like publishers should be treated like publishers. Section 230 should not treat Twitter and neutral internet service providers in the same way when they function so differently.

Hawley asked Dorsey to “explain why you think that companies that act like publishers should not be treated like publishers.”

Sean Moran is a congressional reporter for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter @SeanMoran3.

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