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

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