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FCC unsure it can meet Trump’s social media demands

by on15 June 2020

Can’t really take away tech firms' legal protection

Republican Federal Communications Commissioner Mike O'Rielly said he's unsure whether his agency has the authority to carry out President Donald Trump's executive order targeting tech firms' legal protections.

For those who missed it, Trump ordered the FCC to craft regulations limiting the scope of legal immunity that online platforms have under federal law.

All three commission Republicans would need to support such regulations for them to pass, as the FCC's two Democrats are certain to oppose them.

In an interview for C-SPAN's "The Communicators", O'Rielly told Axios whike he sympathises with the president's claims that conservatives have been unfairly stifled online, but "what we do about that is a different story. I have deep reservations they provided any intentional authority for this matter, but I want to listen to people. I do not believe it is the right of the agency to read into the statute authority that is not there."

The executive order targets Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a foundational internet law that prevents websites from being held liable for users’ posts on their platforms as long as they make an effort to remove illegal posts.

There have already been questions as to whether the order, which was mostly to stop Twitter fact checking Trump’s posts, has any teeth.

As you might expect, Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democrat, harshly slammed the order in a statement Thursday, framing it as a threat to free speech.

“This does not work. Social media can be frustrating. But an Executive Order that would turn the Federal Communications Commission into the President’s speech police is not the answer”, she said. “It’s time for those in Washington to speak up for the First Amendment. History won’t be kind to silence.”

Last modified on 15 June 2020
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