President Donald Trump recently sounded alarm bells over the censorship policies of Big Tech. “Twitter is going wild with their flags, trying hard to suppress even the truth. Just shows how dangerous they are, purposely stifling free speech. Very dangerous for our Country. Does Congress know that this is how Communism starts? Cancel Culture at its worst. End Section 230!” Trump said in a tweet. The president’s warning comes after he vetoed a defense-spending bill due to Congress not removing liability protections that are currently in place for social media platforms.
The President and his supporters have consistently highlighted the risk posed by social media companies censoring conservative views online as an attack on free speech. Trump has asked Congress to roll back the protections offered to these firms under Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act. According to Section 230, online platforms are not liable for the content posted by their users. These legal protections are not applied to platforms that act as publishers.
The Department of Justice has been actively trying to get lawmakers to amend Section 230. Back in October, Assistant Attorney General Stephen E. Boyd wrote a letter to congressional leaders regarding the issue. Citing Twitter’s suppression of a report by the New York Post that exposed the shady business dealings of Hunter Biden, Boyd warned that such events “have made reform even more urgent.” He pointed out that Big Tech platforms hold massive power over the information available to Americans. As such, it is necessary that these platforms remain honest and transparent about how they use that power. And when they start misusing power, it is necessary that such platforms are held liable for their actions.
In an interview with Fox News, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee Senator Lindsay Graham notes that conservatism is under attack from the Big Tech platforms. “Section 230 allows the Big Tech companies to take down content and make decisions without being sued and they’re not regulated… There’s no business that I know of in America that can’t be sued for their actions and not subject to regulation by the government at any level, except Big Tech… Social media companies and mail-in voting will destroy conservatism if we don’t push back,” he said in the program.
Dave Rubin, host of the Rubin Report, has said that Big Tech’s political censorship will only get worse if Democrats get control over the White House and the Senate. In an interview with Breitbart, he says that Trump was “the last thing” stopping Big Tech from getting out of control. Rubin believes that 2021 will turn out to be the “year of the bannings.” Initially, it would be soft bans. Later on, things like shadow banning, algorithmic depressions, deboosting, etc. will come into play.
Two weeks prior to the election, Twitter changed its retweet feature. Instead of hitting the retweet once, the user had to hit it twice. Rubin believes that Twitter did this to ensure that some of the posts, probably things related to election fraud, did not go viral.
In May this year, President Trump signed an executive order which asked federal agencies to develop regulations to keep social media users safe from deceptive or unfair content restriction practices. In June, lawmakers Josh Hawley and Marco Rubio proposed the “Limiting Section 230 Immunity to Good Samaritans Act” that sought to make Internet companies accountable in cases where they restricted political speech or hid any content produced by competitors. Companies found guilty would be required to pay a fine of $5,000 plus attorney’s fees to each user who prevails.