An executive order AND proposed legislation? Social media may be in for a reckoning.
“Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) on Wednesday separately announced they were both working on legislation to strip Twitter of federal protections that ensure the company is not held liable for what is posted on its platform,” The Hill reported on Wednesday.
Lawmakers are fiercely debating over the future of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA). Section 230 is the part of the CDA that allows internet platforms to avoid legal liability.
This controversy was triggered by Twitter fact-checking President Donald Trump. Trump’s tweet decrying that “Mail-In Ballots will be anything less than substantially fraudulent” was labeled with a bright blue sentence by Twitter, directing viewers to “Get the facts about mail-in ballots.”. Trump responded by accusing the Big Tech platform of “interfering in the 2020 Presidential Election.”
“President Donald Trump is expected to issue an executive order today that seeks to punish social media companies for making editorial judgments about the content on their platforms,” NBC News & MSNBC senior media reporter Dylan Byers wrote in his May 28 Byers Market newsletter.
Hawley released an open letter May 27, with a damning pair of tweets slamming Twitter’s leadership:
@jack a few questions for you below. Bottom line: Why should @twitter continue to get special treatment from government as a mere distributor of other people’s content if you are going to editorialize and comment like a publisher? Shouldn’t you be treated like publisher?
Hawley followed that tweet by proclaiming, “I will introduce legislation to end these special government giveaways.”
Hawley explained his ultimatum: “If @Twitter wants to editorialize & comment on users’ posts, it should be divested of its special status under federal law (Section 230) & forced to play by same rules as all other publishers. Fair is fair.”
The same day, Gaetz announced his current political campaign via tweet: “I'm working on legislation to revise Section 230 so we don't have election interference from companies like Twitter.”
Gaetz suggested during the twelfth episode of the Hot Takes with Matt Gaetz podcast that Twitter could instead try doing some actual fact-checking of “blue check mark folks” who pushed the Russia-collusion narrative. “All that turned out to be nonsense,” Gaetz said.
The Hill quoted a statement from Gaetz declaring his determination to hold Big Tech accountable:
[I]f you are going to opine to the truth or falsity of that which is put on your platform for the sake of its viewers, you do not get the protections of Section 230. You are not a platform. You are doing something else. You are editorializing.