US President Donald Trump on Friday tweeted that he wants section 230, internet legislation, to be terminated for 'national security'. This comes after he signed an executive order that limits the protection social media companies such as Twitter, Facebook, and search giant Google has over content on its platforms.
Targeting Twitter, Trump had said that such companies have 'unchecked power', and wants to bring changes to Section 230, which is a part of the Communications Decency Act from 1996.
“Twitter is doing nothing about all of the lies & propaganda being put out by China or the Radical Left Democrat Party. They have targeted Republicans, Conservatives & the President of the United States. Section 230 should be revoked by Congress. Until then, it will be regulated!” Trump had tweeted earlier.
What is section 230?
Section 230 is a piece of Internet legislation, passed into law as part of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) of 1996 (a common name for Title V of the Telecommunications Act of 1996), formally codified as Section 230 of the Communications Act of 1934 at 47 U.S.C.§ 230.
According to Section 230: "No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider."
The primary purpose of Section 230 is to shield owners of any 'interactive computer service' from liability for anything posted by third parties.
Section 230, a part of a law called the Communications Decency Act, aimed at curbing online pornography. Most of that law was struck down but Section 230 remains.
Section 230 and political bias
Targeting fake news and the US presidential elections, Trump and others have attacked Section 230, saying it has given companies too much legal protection, allowing them to escape unscathed.
The law, which is becoming a partisan issue because of Republican lawmakers' belief that social media companies take down more right-wing content as compared to left-wing or liberal. However, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has maintained that Twitter's algorithm doesn't reflect anybody's political leaning.
Can Trump bring changes to Section 230?
Only Congress can change Section 230. In 2018, the law was modified to make it possible to prosecute platforms that were used by alleged sex traffickers.
Even though Trump can't bring changes to the law all by himself, the threat of persistent charge by the government against social media companies could be enough.