Should Twitter, Google and Facebook be held more accountable for what users do on their platforms? That is what American politics is now considering. Five questions about the debate about the role of social media in free speech on the internet.
What is this actually about?
The subject of the discussion is section 230, part of the Communications Decency Act. It items states that companies such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube (part of Google) cannot be held responsible for the messages, photos and videos that users upload on their platforms.
Section 230 also gives these companies the freedom to impose restrictions or remove content if the company believes this is undesirable. The law does prescribe that this must be done “with the best of intentions”.
The directors of the three companies, Jack Dorsey (Twitter), Sundar Pichai (Google) and Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), testified October 28 before a US Senate committee.
Roger Wicker, the Republican Senate Committee Chair, noted that Section 230 “has been critical in protecting online platforms from endless and potentially disastrous lawsuits.”
Twitter director Jack Dorsey was faced with the most questions. Republicans are concerned about alleged censorship of conservative sound. Dorsey says Twitter treats users equally. (Photo: Reuters)
The article has been criticized by both Republicans and Democrats, but in a different way. Roughly speaking, the Republicans argue that Section 230 causes too much intervention by companies like Facebook and Twitter. On the other hand, Democrats argue that companies cannot be held accountable if they do not intervene.
In fact, the two presidential candidates Donald Trump and Joe Biden both plead for the law to be repealed completely.
Trump regularly has to stick with Twitter. The incumbent president uses his @realDonaldTrump account as a mouthpiece to the people. Trump often posts messages that the social network says is false or misleading. Twitter posts this behind a warning: only those who click through can see the tweet.
Biden especially doesn’t like Facebook. Early this year, he said in an interview with The New York Times that section 230 allows Facebook to “spread falsehoods knowing they are false”. According to him, the protection of the legal part ensures that Facebook does not bear any responsibility.
Not necessarily. Although Trump threatens To curb section 230 single-handedly, the power to amend the law rests with Congress. The hearing by the senate committee can lay a foundation for how that is done.