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Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube – owned by Alphabet, the parent company of Google – have been censoring content they deem contradictory to official information about the virus since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a pandemic in March. Critics have pointed out that applying this consistently would mean censoring the WHO, as its own positions on the virus have evolved over time.
While the First Amendment to the US Constitution bars the government from censorship, ostensibly private platforms such as social media companies have broad discretion in removing content. A key provision of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, Section 230, gives them legal protection as ‘platforms’ and not ‘publishers,’ and allows them to remove “objectionable” content without precisely defining it.
Trump let Facebook and Twitter know exactly what he thought about the censorship, tweeting after noon on Tuesday, “REPEAL SECTION 230!!!”
REPEAL SECTION 230!!!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 6, 2020
However, that’s unlikely to happen any time soon, with Democrats holding the majority in the House of Representatives and Trump’s own Republicans less than enthusiastic to crack down on Silicon Valley in this way.
Back in May, the president signed an executive order instructing the federal bureaucracy to interpret Section 230 in the strictest sense of “in good faith,” and potentially cracking down on platforms that behave like publishers. However, there has been no enforcement of this so far.
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