A Supreme Court Justice has warned social media platforms Facebook and Twitter in the midst of an ongoing legal battle involving a historical law.
The law is Section 230, or the Communications Decency Act. Passed in the 1990s, the law mandates that an ‘interactive computer device’ cannot be recognized as the publisher of third-party content – in other words, websites like Facebook and Twitter are protected from lawsuits if a user posts something illegal, though some exceptions are recognized.
Section 230 has been a hot topic in American news following events that transpired over the last few months – notably, the U.S. presidential election, the Capitol riots in January, and the ongoing battle against COVID-19.
Critics of Section 230 have said that it gives social networking sites too much power and shaves off their responsibility to ensure the media shared by users is not harmful.
Among critics is former U.S. President Donald Trump. He asked regulators to change the law to make it more narrow in 2020. This happened months before platforms like Facebook and Twitter permanently banned him from using their platforms.
Current U.S. President Joe Biden is no fan of the law, either. Last year, he suggested he would remove the law.
Facebook And Twitter Might Be in Trouble, Suggests A Supreme Court Justice
Section 230 has been central to an ongoing Supreme Court case. Following Trump’s barring from social networking sites, the fabrics of the law reached the Supreme Court. Justice Clarence Thomas issued a statement. The statement is classified as an opinion rather than a ruling, meaning that it does not precede an actual legal outcome.
In the statement, Thomas suggests social media companies should be regulated by the government as if they were ‘common carriers’ such as phone networks. This suggests the government would be able to stop networking sites from removing users’ content without permission.
As Section 230 continues to be a highly discussed topic, the future of social media regulation and speech laws is unknown.