Try to ask Twitter, Facebook, to remove hateful content towards you, even if you don’t have a public role. The answer is always the same: the platform it is not obliged to remove anything, and does not actually remove anything, because the rules – essentially US – allow it to do so, going free from liability.
The platform is not even obligated to answer and when the reply arrives – usually in the form of an automatic refusal message and after some time – it is clarified that the platform will only remove if it is a recognized administrative or judicial authority that addresses them. Which it never happens because in court in Italy the big names in the network claim to be subject to a judge and to a law other than the Italian one.
This modus operandi still has an important role in protecting freedom of expressionif – as has been said – you are a politician, but that can contribute to the disintegration of your personality if you are not and someone wants to destroy you.
This happens by virtue of several rules. The main of which is known as the “Section 230”. What is Section 230?
Section 230 is contained within Title V of Telecommunications Act United States 1996, and takes the name of Communications Decency Act. The standard was established as the Internet grew and expanded in the first major technological boom of the 90s. Initially the provision was created to regulate the spread of pornographic material on the Internet, the latter then modified by a 2018 law.
Section 230 exemptsinstead, the platforms from liability if one of their users publishes something illegal or controversial; therefore it is generally not possible to sue Twitter, Facebook or Google groups for a tweet posted by someone else, for example. The law has (more or less directly) granted to platforms a regulatory shield which allowed them not to intervene on requests for deletion of content.
Donald Trump has decided to intervene on that rule with an “executive order” – as Joe Biden, his competitor at the next Presidential elections, also announced – as, according to him, these rules are no longer adopted to protect a nascent form of free expression, but how instrument of conservation of a power not to intervene.
A discretionary power that should, however, remain when a public figure, including Trump himself, intends to delete content concerning him or when someone with the excuse of copyright wants to delete content from the network.
But this discretion cannot concern the right of each of us to request that information that is harmful to one’s rights be canceled, a right that is currently being denied, also because in the United States the Gdpr or general regulation on the protection of personal data does not apply.
In order to judge whether or not the rules announced by Trump are valid, it will therefore be necessary to see how the Federal Communications Commission (the FCC), which must adapt the rules, will interpret the same provisions and which tool for the removal request for the benefit of “the man on the street” will be adopted.
From what it appears to be a possible spite against big tech, and a move ahead of the next election campaign, could be born something good for web surfers.