President Donald Trump signed a regulation regulating social media companies last week, which claims that Twitter, Facebook and other online platforms are the enemies of free speech.
But Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) is not buying it.
"(Trump) wants to force private companies to house his lie," Wyden told Digital Trends.
As a co-author of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act – the specific law Trump's Executive Order targets – Wyden knows better than most what the law is designed to do. Wyden sees Trump's order as an undisguised attempt to re-formulate Section 230 as a problematic gap, not as the pillar of online freedom that it is.
Wyden recently interviewed Digital Trends to improve the record.
It's not about being "neutral".
Much of Trump's mandate is based on the idea that social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook must be neutral and that it is problematic to allow them to more selectively censor voices on one side of the political spectrum than on the other (which the studies have shown that this does not happen.
"In a country that has long valued freedom of expression, we cannot allow a limited number of online platforms to be hand-picked by Americans to access and deliver," Trump said in his executive regulation. “This practice is fundamentally non-American and anti-democratic. When large, powerful social media companies censor opinions that they disagree with, they exercise a dangerous power. Twitter now selectively decides to label certain tweets with a warning label that clearly reflects political bias. "
Wyden, however, underlined that section 230 was never about neutrality:
"It's just absurd that someone would say that our law requires neutrality," he said in an interview with Digital Trends. "They see nothing in the law that resembles a requirement of neutrality. The point was to say that there could be conservative websites and progressive websites and that we would basically let the market decide which areas people want to pay attention to, and these The idea that this somehow requires neutrality is completely wrong. "
In fact, the law itself does not contain world neutrality anywhere. And that is by design. The mention of neutrality "would have run counter to our entire philosophy." Said Wyden. "Once you start talking about neutrality, you start this way of police and government voice control. It's just a recipe for trouble. And that's why we avoided it."
The law states that "no provider or user of an interactive computer service may be treated as the publisher or spokesman for information provided by another provider of information content." In other words, platforms cannot be held responsible for things that users publish , and can be moderated at your own discretion.
"Basically what we said," said Wyden, "is that you can moderate and curate some content and omit some." That was the point of the law. "
Another misunderstanding that Wyden wants to clear up is that Trump's order is changing the law in some way. That's just not how it works in the United States. Ultimately, Congress will have the authority to repeal or amend Section 230.
While the implementing regulation has no impact on the law, it forces companies such as Facebook, Twitter and others to take legal action to prevent it from becoming law in the future. And that's exactly the point in Wyden's eyes.
"Donald Trump knows that what he's proposing is illegal, but he's trying to do what basketball players call referees," Wyden told Digital Trends. "The idea is to put these companies under so much pressure that they think he'll pull them here and drive them there or do something that makes their lives unbearable." And so, I would say, he tries to "edit the referees" and force them to change their behavior. "
While Section 230 won't go away that quickly, the mere threat to lift it is likely to affect how social media companies work.
I'm just going to get to the bottom line, "said Wyden." What Donald Trump wants to do is want to force private companies to host his lie. "
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