Trump admin to withdraw protection given to big tech platforms

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on June 18, 2020

US President Donald Trump   -  REUTERS

The United States Justice Department kept a proposal on Wednesday to withdraw protection over big tech platforms including Alphabet’s Google and Facebook that the companies have enjoyed for decades, a senior officer said as quoted in a Reuters report. This came as yet another move by the Trump administration after the President became enmeshed in a war of words with tech giants.

The goal of the proposal, which is being finalized, is to push tech companies to address criminal content on their platforms such as child exploitation, terrorism or cyberstalking, and boost transparency for users when the outlets take down lawful material, the Justice Department official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

For the proposal to become law, U.S. lawmakers would need to submit and approve a bill.

“These reforms are targeted at platforms to make certain they are appropriately addressing illegal and exploitive content while continuing to preserve a vibrant, open and competitive internet,” Attorney General William Barr said in a statement.

Trump warned the tech platforms of consequences when various social media questioned him, including Twitter and Snapchat on the credibility of his posts. He said that he would propose legislation to dilute the law shielding the tech giants. This came as an extraordinary attempt to regulate outlets where he has been criticized.

Trump said he sought to “remove or change” Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which generally exempts platforms from responsibility for what their users’ post and allows them to moderate the content of their sites as they wish.

The Justice Department proposal would mandate platforms to “address” illicit content online, such as the material that violates federal criminal law, the department said.

It would also seek to require the companies to be upfront about content moderation decisions and prevent the big online platforms from invoking Section 230 in antitrust cases.

Facebook policy chief Nick Clegg told reporters that Section 230 enables the company to remove hate speech and that big changes would, “in the end, mean less speech of all kinds appearing online.”

The White House welcomed the Justice Department proposal. The spokesperson Judd Deere said: “The president expressly called on DOJ to develop such model legislation in the Executive Order signed recently, and yes, President Trump is pleased to see the department following through.”

The Republicans are also mulling on introducing a bill that would allow people to sue social media platforms in case if they feel that their speech has been censored.

In a letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichai, Hawley referenced a dispute with the conservative website The Federalist, saying that Google’s threat to demonetize the site because of comments made about Black Lives Matter protests was “profoundly disingenuous.”

Hawley said Google sought to hold The Federalist responsible for its readers’ comments even though Google’s YouTube is not held accountable for comments because of Section 230.

“In short, Google demands minimum oversight for itself, but maximum power over those who use its platform,” Hawley wrote, Reuters mentioned in its report.

Published on June 18, 2020

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