- President Trump signed an executive order on Thursday to curb social media companies after Twitter decided to label two of his tweets with a fact check label.
- The order concerns Section 230, a provision in a 1996 law that protects companies on the Internet, such as Twitter and Facebook, from being regulated as publishers of third-party content, such as tweets and Facebook posts.
- Section 230 also gives social media sites the ability to regulate content on their platforms.
- Legal experts told Business Insider that parts of Trump's order are likely to be illegal and difficult or impossible to enforce.
- You can find more stories on the Business Insider homepage.
What is section 230?
Section 230 is part of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, and its advocates have named it "The most important law for the protection of the Internet language."
It contains a number of guidelines for the regulation of "interactive computer services", which today also include social media companies such as Twitter and Facebook.
The section that has been described as "The 26 Words That Created the Internet" says that "no provider or user of an interactive computer service may be treated as the publisher or speaker of information provided by another provider of information content."
This essentially allows websites like Twitter and Facebook not to be regulated as publishers and protects them (with some exceptions) from being held liable for illegal posts. While a newspaper would be held liable for the content it produces and publishes, social media companies are able to distance themselves from the content posted by people on their platforms.
The section also offers social media websites the ability to regulate content such as hate speech on their platforms:
"No provider or user of an interactive computer service … is liable for all measures that are voluntarily taken in good faith to limit access to or the availability of material that the provider or user deems to be obscene, indecent, lascivious, dirty, excessively violent, annoying or otherwise objectionable, independent whether this is the case or not such material is constitutionally protected. "
This specific text protects social media websites from claims by people who say that the first change gives them the ability to post anything they want, as long as it's not illegal without being removed.
While websites such as Twitter and Facebook were reluctant to regulate the language on their platforms, they removed or flagged content if this expressly violated their guidelines, e.g. B. Guidelines against inciting violence. For example, The rules of Twitter Prohibit hate speech, but such speech is generally allowed by the first change.
Why we're talking about section 230 again
President Donald Trump was upset this week after Twitter flagged two of his tweets about mail-in polls with the "Find out about mail-in ballots" warning.
– Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 26, 2020
The move prompted Trump to enact an implementing regulation on Thursday aimed at protecting social media companies under section 230.
The ordinance instructs federal agencies to change section 230 and to change the way in which they interpret and enforce section 230, in accordance with a draft ordinance that was released on Thursday.
What is the potential impact of Trump's mandate?
If Trump's order changes the way Section 230 cases are negotiated, it could have a profound impact on how social media websites make decisions about regulating content on their platforms.
However, it is unclear whether the order has the possibility. Legal experts told Business Insider Sonam Sheth and Ashley Gold that parts of Trump's order are likely to be illegal and that federal authorities need to take precedent action.
"It doesn't seem to be enforceable. It can be put down relatively quickly by injunction or litigation and courts," said Kate Klonick, professor of internet law at St. John’s University.
"It ignores 25 years of jurisdiction in which Section 230 is widely interpreted," she said.