Trump’s change to the Communications Decency Act, and Section 230, sounds like revenge on Twitter and all social media platforms. It will be chaos in federal courts, the platforms are likely to become de censors. Meanwhile, Twitter reports, but does not eliminate, another Trump Tweet that says: “if the looting begins, the shootings begin.”
In the end, what was feared happened. Donald Trump, 45th president of the United States of America, has managed to formulate his (first) revenge on social media and to Twitter in particular. Just to be clear, there is a big problem regarding social media, even the companies that own the platforms and those who guide them do not deny it, but this does not mean that any regulation must pass after who should do and guarantee the laws is caught when spreads “unfounded” informationeven complaining that this foreshadows a threat to freedom. It does not work like that. Freedom must always be guaranteed, in compliance with the rules that apply to anyone.
But let’s stay on what happened yesterday, when it was late in Italy.
Trump signs the executive order that amends Section 230
Donald Trump signed an executive order last night that aims to change the Communications Decency Act, known to all as “Section 230“. In practice, the shield that protected social platforms from the responsibilities deriving from the publication of the same contents disappears. From today the social platforms will not be able to enjoy legal protection, this will lead to citations and appeals that will crowd the federal courts.
What Section 230 says
Before proceeding, however, it is a duty, for the benefit of all, to spend two words on this “Section 230“.
This section is part of the law, as we said before, Communications Decency Act, a law passed in 1997 which aims to regulate pornographic content on the Internet. This law had a strong impact for two reasons: firstly for having sought, precisely, to regulate “indecency” on the Internet; second for introducing the principle that internet services are not to be considered publishers, thanks to Section 230.
Over the years, this section has taken on enormous value, especially with the rise of the social media phenomenon, preventing, among other things, that the platforms themselves become censors and arbiters of all that is shared through these tools.
“No supplier or user of an interactive IT service can be treated like the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another provider of information content”, thus reads a passage from the section.
Legal protection therefore protected the platforms from any illegal action committed by the user himself. Now, with the executive order, an instrument that the Constitution endows to the President to determine how to enforce the laws, the risk is that this can generate chaos.
Already in 2013 another attempt by 47 general prosecutors who asked for their modification, requesting the removal of the legal immunity for the platforms. The ACLU (the American Union for Civil Liberties) commented: “If section 230 were stripped of its protections, it wouldn’t take long for the vibrant culture of free speech to disappear from the net“. The risk is precisely that.
Twitter and Trump when politics believes they own social media
Trump’s goal is a social media law
Trump’s real goal is a law that aims to regulate social media and, having no direct power, will have to resort to Congress. And it will certainly not be easy. Even with the presidential elections imminent.
Certainly this is a first step towards that control that politics has always tried to exercise on social media. Before they wanted to own and control newspapers, now they would like to do the same with these tools managed by private companies.
The debate on Section 230 in the US has always been very lively. Do you think it was one of the themes carried out by Joe Biden, certainly not a Republican, and Bernie Sanders also said that the time had come to modify it.
Twitter reports another Trump tweet: “when the looting begins, the shooting will begin”
… .These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen. Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!
– Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 29, 2020
We have placed a public interest notice on this Tweet from @realdonaldtrump. https://t.co/6RHX56G2zt
– Twitter Comms (@TwitterComms) May 29, 2020
Meanwhile, Twitter has reported, but not eliminated, another Donald Trump tweet as allegedly violent. The content is obscured in gray with the “View” label. The tweet is weakened in terms of reach and it is not possible to express interactions, only retweet with comment. In this tweet Trump refers to the Minneapolis events after the killing by a policeman of George Floyd.
“When the looting begins, the shooting will begin.” A sentence that Twitter has judged as praising violence, contravening the rules of the platform.
A president of the United States should express himself in other ways, trying to act to bring communities together with responsible attitudes and words, precisely to avoid further violence.