US Justice Department To Propose Ending Tech Firm Protection

The US Justice Department is going to very soon propose legislation to end long-standing protections for tech firms, it has been reported.

According to Reuters, which quoted a department official who was speaking on condition of anonymity, the DoJ plans to make a legislative proposal that the US Congress would have to pass.

It comes after Twitter became engaged in a spat with US President Donald Trump last month, after it placed warning fact-checking labels on a couple of his tweets for the first time.

Trump clash

Twitter made the decision after Donald Trump made unsubstantiated claims that postal voting would lead to widespread fraud.

Twitter doubled down when it then placed a tweet of President Trump behind a warning label where it can only be viewed by clicking on it, because his tweet was ‘glorifying violence’ by threatening to shoot looters.

The US President had been tweeting about the US city of Minneapolis, which has seen nights of protests following the death of George Floyd.

“I can’t stand back & watch this happen to a great American City, Minneapolis,” he tweeted. A total lack of leadership. Either the very weak Radical Left Mayor, Jacob Frey, get his act together and bring the City under control, or I will send in the National Guard & get the job done right.”

“These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen,” he added in a second tweet. “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!”

Twitter placed this second tweet behind a warning.

Executive order

In response the US President first threatened to close down social networking firms, but he then followed up on his threat and signed an executive order against social networking firms.

That executive order is an extraordinary attempt to regulate social media platforms. It seeks to introduce legislation that may scrap or weaken a law that has protected big name internet companies such as Facebook and Google, from being responsible for the material posted by their users.

Trump essentially wants to “remove or change” a provision of a law known as section 230 that shields social media companies from liability for content posted by their users.

Section 230 protections have been criticised in the past by other lawmakers on both sides of the pond, who feel that it gives social networking firms a free pass on things like hate speech and content that supports terrorism.

The Trump administration’s proposal would stop tech firms from taking down content arbitrarily, and instead push them to create rules and expectations and to enforce them consistently.

It would stop companies from deleting content it finds “objectionable” and require them to explain their decisions, Reuters reported.

And crucially, the proposal would seek to hold tech platforms accountable if they facilitate scams or child exploitation or other violations of federal criminal law.

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Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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