Trump Administration Submits Petition To FCC In Bid To Prevent Online Censorship

After Attorney General William Barr testified before the House Judiciary Committee, President Donald Trump also made a big move.

The Trump administration has submitted a petition to the Federal Communications Commission as part of an overall mission to combat and prevent online censorship.

The Department of Commerce filed a petition to the commission to request clarification on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, specifically whether the act allows social media companies that alter or editorialize users’ speech to escape civil liability.

“Provide clearer guidance to courts, platforms, and users, on what content falls within (c)(2) immunity, particularly section 230(c)(2)’s ‘otherwise objectionable’ language and its requirement that all removals be done in ‘good faith,’” the petition states.

“Many Americans rely on online platforms to stay informed and connected, sharing their thoughts and ideas on issues important to them, which can oftentimes lead to free and open debate around public policies and upcoming elections,” Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said in a statement.

“It has long been the policy of the United States to foster a robust marketplace of ideas on the Internet and the free flow of information around the world. President Trump is committed to protecting the rights of all Americans to express their views and not face unjustified restrictions or selective censorship from a handful of powerful companies,” Ross added.

Back in May, the president signed an executive order aimed at preventing people from being censored online.

Section 230 has come under heavy fire because critics say it shields social media companies from liability when they censor and suppress certain speech.

“For example, if someone writes and posts a defamatory statement on Twitter, the defamed person could sue the tweet’s author,” a report from June stated.

“Section 230, however, would likely require a court to dismiss any lawsuits against Twitter or a second Twitter user who merely retweets the original statement without comment—so long as neither Twitter nor the second Twitter user helped to develop the initial tweet.”

Below is a statement from the White House:

On Monday, the Department of Commerce, as directed by President Donald J. Trump’s Executive Order on Preventing Online Censorship, filed a petition to clarify the scope of Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act. The petition requests that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) clarify that Section 230 does not permit social media companies that alter or editorialize users’ speech to escape civil liability.

The petition also requests that the FCC clarify when an online platform curates content in “good faith,” and requests transparency requirements on their moderation practices, similar to requirements imposed on broadband service providers under Title I of the Communications Act. President Trump will continue to fight back against unfair, un-American, and politically biased censorship of Americans online.

Commissioner Brendan Carr said he welcomed the petition, which he described as providing “an opportunity to bring much-needed clarity to the statutory text.”

“And it allows us to move forward in a way that will empower speakers to engage in ‘a forum for a true diversity of political discourse,’ as Congress envisioned when it passed Section 230,” he said in a statement.