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US communications regulator to revisit Section 230 safe harbour protections for social media companies

Photo of Ajit Pai, chair of US Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
Ajit Pai, chair of US Federal Communications Commission (FCC)

The legal immunity enjoyed by internet companies such as Facebook and Twitter is under challenge in the US. Ajit Pai, chair of the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced that the regulatory body will start exploring the legal interpretation of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1986, which guarantees safe harbour protections to companies operating on the internet. Pai's announcement came just a day after Twitter and Facebook, in a controversial more, decided to block and impede the distribution of news articles by the New York Post with supposedly unverified information about Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and his family, inviting widespread criticism from Republican leaders, including US President Donald Trump. It also follows repeated attempts by the country's executive and legislative branches of government to dilute Section 230 protections to bring social media companies like Facebook and Twitter to heel. From the country's judiciary, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas recently said the legal immunity under Section 230 was being interpreted too broadly, and that the court needs to examine it in the future. In a statement, Pai said that the US Department of Commerce had petitioned FCC to "clarify the ambiguities in section 230". He said that all branches of the US government had expressed "serious concerns" about Section 230. He added that there is bipartisan support in the Congress to reform the law. "As elected officials consider whether to change the law, the question remains: What does Section 230 currently mean? Many advance an overly broad interpretation that…

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