GOP lawmaker announces bill pressuring Big Tech to drop ‘fact-checks’ entirely

Rep. Matt Gaetz's legislation would remove protections from possible liability for content the platforms host.
Fri May 29, 2020 - 3:26 pm EST
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Rep. Matt Gaetz (R) of Florida. Alex Wong / Getty Images

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WASHINGTON, D.C., May 29, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – With President Donald Trump having signed an executive order meant to tackle discrimination against conservatives on social media, a Republican congressman announced he is also working on a legislative solution to the problem.

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Florida, says he is currently working on legislation that would require platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to abstain from “fact-checking” users’ content if they want to remain immune from potential liability for the content they host, one of the privileges they currently enjoy under Section 230 of the federal Communications Decency Act.

“I am currently working with my Republican colleagues on the Judiciary Committee to craft legislation to say that if you’re going to opine as to the truth or falsity of that which is put on your platform, for the sake of its viewers, you don’t get the protection of Section 230. You are not a platform,” Gaetz said this week, Breitbart reported. “You are doing something else, you are editorializing.”

The move follows Twitter placing a “fact-check” on a tweet by President Donald Trump pertaining to the fraud potential of mail-in voting. On Thursday, Trump signed an executive order aimed at tweaking how federal agencies interpret and enforce Section 230.

The order essentially directs the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to propose an administrative rule that would “spell out what it means for the tech giants to carry out their takedown policies ‘in good faith,’” national security attorney Stewart Baker explained. “This is not a Fairness Doctrine for the internet; it doesn't mandate that social media show balance in their moderation policies. It is closer to a Due Process Clause for the platforms.  They may not announce a neutral rule and then apply it pretextually.”

The order also tasks the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to “determine whether entities relying on section 230 ‘restrict speech in ways that do not align with those entities' public representations about those practices,’” Baker continued, quoting the order.

Still, the president’s power to affect change in this area within existing law is limited, which is where Gaetz’s bill comes in, by adding a clear, objective condition to the law itself.

“You see Twitter disadvantaging the president, they enjoy liability protections that are not enjoyed by your local newspaper or your local TV station, or Fox News, or CNN, or MSNBC,” Gaetz said. “They have special benefits under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act as digital platforms because they’re not creating content for which they should be liable. They’re not making decisions about content, they’re simply saying come one, come all with your content. And as a consequence of that, they’re getting a bunch of protections.”

For years, several conservatives have urged reforming Section 230 as a way to curb internet platforms’ discriminiation against conservatives without running foul of the First Amendment.

“These statutory provisions (of Section 230) have likely had a helpful role in the growth of the internet. But they are also clearly not constitutionally required – they are special favors,” George Mason University law professor Eugene Kontorovich testified last year. “In enacting the immunity provisions, Congress assumed that protected internet services provide ‘a forum for a true diversity of political discourse.’ To the extent that assumption is weakened by online companies filtering out viewpoints that they deem ideologically impermissible, the assumptions behind Section 230 may need to be revisited.”

The bill is not expected to make it out of the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives. Regulating social media is also a contentious issue within the Republican Party, raising questions as to the bill’s prospects even if Republicans keep and expand their control of government in the November elections.

  big tech, communications decency act, congress, donald trump, fact-checking, free speech, matt gaetz, section 230, social media bias, social media censorship

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