Big Tech Reckoning: WH Roundtable Demands Section 230 Overhaul

September 24th, 2020 2:16 PM

Big Tech’s reckoning may have finally arrived. The White House hosted a roundtable calling for the overhaul of Section 230, a change which has massive implications for Big Tech and online speech. 

No more “bad faith” moderation! The Department of Justice has proposed a bill to overhaul Section 230 and punish companies for political censorship.

“Every year, countless Americans are banned, blacklisted, and silenced through arbitrary or malicious enforcement of ever-shifting rules,” President Donald Trump declared at a September 23 roundtable including Attorney General William Barr, Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO), and nine other conservative leaders. Trump then described his response: “In May, I directed Attorney General Barr to work with the state attorneys general as they enforce the state laws against deceptive business practices.” 

Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen explained how this legislation will ensure that when Big Tech companies “moderate content in bad faith,” they will risk their Section 230 protections.

This roundtable discussed an entirely new approach to wrangling with Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects Big Tech platforms from legal liability from lawsuits for content that appears on their platforms.

The discussion’s declared purpose was to “focus on concrete legal steps to protect an open Internet and a free society, including steps to ensure the social media companies cannot deceive their users with hidden efforts to manipulate the spread of information.” 

Barr has delivered:

“I’m pleased to report that, earlier today, the Department, on behalf of the administration, has sent to Congress proposed legislation to reform Section 230. And that legislation addresses concerns about online censorship by requiring greater transparency and accountability when platforms remove lawful speech.”

Google whistleblower Zach Vorhies summarized the Section 230 reform legislation in a Twitter thread: “companies like Google and Facebook will get stripped of immunity if they moderate content in bad faith.” He featured numerous purported screenshots of the legislation. In one tweet, Vorhies summarized how “Good faith terms are defined. This will make Google/YouTube, Facebook, Twitter's lives very difficult. They will now have to tell you why they are restricting your content.” 

The DOJ press release explained that the legislation has a “series of reforms to promote transparency and open discourse and ensure that platforms are fairer to the public when removing lawful speech from their services.” It went on to explain why, after years of moderation in bad faith, it’s high time for a complete overhaul:

“The current interpretations of Section 230 have enabled online platforms to hide behind the immunity to censor lawful speech in bad faith and is inconsistent with their own terms of service.”

“To remedy this,” Barr explained, “the department’s legislative proposal revises and clarifies the existing language of Section 230 and replaces vague terms” replacing them with more “concrete” language. 

The prime example of Big Tech tyranny discussed was how platforms have been censoring leaders for expressing valid concerns about mail-in voter fraud. In late May, Twitter fact-checked Trump for suggesting that mail-in ballots could lead to voter fraud, a concern even The New York Times has acknowledged to be valid.

But the initial fact-check of Trump proved to be only the beginning. In August Twitter placed an interstitial, or filter, over Trump’s August 23 tweet criticizing “Mail Drop Boxes” as a “voter security disaster.” In September, Twitter announced in a September 10 company blog update that “We will label or remove false or misleading information intended to undermine public confidence in an election or other civic process.”

Twitter followed through on this threat a few days later. Trump warned North Carolina voters: “To make sure your Ballot COUNTS, sign & send it in EARLY,” and urged them to “go to your Polling Place to see if it was COUNTED.” He followed up by suggesting “IF NOT, VOTE!” Trump claimed that “Your signed Ballot will not count because your vote has been posted,” and warned: “Don’t let them illegally take your vote away from you!” Twitter responded by labeling the tweet with an interstitial, or filter: “This Tweet violated the Twitter Rules about civic and election integrity. However, Twitter has determined that it may be in the public’s interest for the Tweet to remain accessible. Learn more.”

State Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R-WV) discussed that Trump’s concerns about censorship about electoral fraud have since been validated. He recounted how, “When you were being criticized by Twitter, related to absentee ballots, that very same day, we concluded an investigation of West Virginia, which affirmed a lot of the very things you were saying.”

Morrisey later added that “I thought you’d appreciate the irony of that very day,” that irony being how “That person is going to go to jail now. And, meanwhile, Twitter continues to engage and pretend that what’s true is not.”

Conservatives are under attack. Contact your local representative and demand that Big Tech be held to account to mirror the First Amendment while providing transparency, clarity on “hate speech” and equal footing for conservatives. If you have been censored, contact us at the Media Research Center contact form and help us hold Big Tech accountable.