DOJ Proposes Modifying Law Supporting Free Speech Online In Effort To Pressure Internet Companies On Content Moderation Policies

BY Heather Greenfield
June 17, 2020

Washington — Today the Justice Department announced a proposal to alter the law that allows internet users to instantly communicate online. The law, known as Section 230, was envisioned to protect free speech online while giving digital services legal certainty to remove objectionable content without risk of liability.

DOJ’s proposal, which would require Congressional approval, limits liability protections in the wake of President Trump’s May 28 Executive Order.  Among other changes, the Justice Department recommends narrowing the scope of Section 230(c)(2) to remove references to “objectionable” content — language under which digital services have flexibility to remove not only indecency, but also disinformation by foreign intelligence operatives, racism, and misinformation about public health concerns like the COVID-19 pandemic, content that is not necessarily unlawful but is nevertheless unwanted.  

The Computer & Communications Industry Association has advocated against government censorship of the internet for more than 20 years. The following can be attributed to CCIA President Matt Schruers, who spoke at the DOJ’s February workshop:

“This is a shockingly ill-conceived proposal.  Amid a pandemic, pervasive racial injustice, in an election season, the Justice Department proposes to remove from this critical statute the language that provides legal certainty for the removal of everything from coronavirus misinformation to racism to disinformation by foreign intelligence operatives.  Why would the Justice Department want to limit companies’ ability to fight these threats?”

For additional background information:

This October 2019 blog post by Schruers addresses common myths about Section 230 and explains why the intermediary protections facilitate socially and economically critical communications and commerce for individuals and businesses across the nation.

For media inquiries, please contact Heather Greenfield hgreenfield@ccianet.org

Related Articles

CCIA Statement On Social Media Ban On Accounts Involved In Inciting Violence

Jan 9, 2021

The following can be attributed to Computer & Communication Industry Association President Matt Schruers in response to numerous digital services suspending accounts involved in the incitement of violence, including by President Donald Trump, on their platforms: “Private companies taking action against bad actors that misuse their services to incite violence have a First Amendment right…

Senate Judiciary Considers Controversial Copyright And Section 230 Legislation

Dec 10, 2020

Washington — Controversial legislation combining flawed copyright and Section 230 bills was considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee today before being withdrawn. The Computer & Communications Industry Association has serious concerns with S. 4632 (the Online Content Policy Modernization Act), which is a bill containing S. 1273 (the Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement (CASE) Act…