Trump administration petitions FCC to regulate social media companies

The Commerce Department on Monday sent a petition for rule-making to the FCC asking the agency to reinterpret Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI

July 28 (UPI) — The Trump administration on Monday formally asked the Federal Communications Commission to develop plans to regulate social media platforms.

The Commerce Department sent a petition for rulemaking to the FCC on Monday, asking the agency to reinterpret Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which provides to online companies immunity from legal liability for the actions of their users.

“Unfortunately, large online platforms appear to engage in selective censorship that is harming our national discourse,” the petition states. “The FCC should determine how Section 230 can best serve its goals of promoting Internet diversity and a free flow of ideas, as well as holding dominant platforms accountable for their editorial decisions, in new market conditions and technologies that have emerged since the 1990s.”

The petition also calls for the FCC to clarify to what degree Section 230 protects social media’s content moderation decisions, the conditions under which content moderation and editorial decisions shape content to a degree that the law no longer protects them, and what obligations social media companies have to disclose their moderation practices.

President Donald Trump in May signed an executive order directing the Commerce Department to ask the FCC to reinterpret the law, saying social media companies have “unchecked power” after Twitter flagged a pair of his tweets on mail-in voting as potentially misleading.

“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,” Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said in a statement Monday.

FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr welcomed the petition, saying that the rules Congress put in place to regulate Internet companies in the 1990s are now outdated.

“Flash forward 20 years and the content moderation practices employed by the Internet giants of today bear little resemblance to the activities Congress had in mind when it passed Section 230,” Carr said.

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, however, said the agency should not “take this bait” from the White House.

“While social media can be frustrating, turning this agency into the president’s speech police is not the answer,” said Rosenworcel. “If we honor the Constitution, we will reject this petition immediately.”


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