US Justice Department proposes changes to platforms’ immunity

Platform News: Social Media Giants, including Facebook, Google and Twitter

President Trump has met with nine Republican state attorney generals to discuss the fate of a legal immunity for online companies following the Justice Department unveiled a legislative proposal aimed at reforming the same law.

Trump satisfied with attorney generals from Arizona, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and West Virginia.

Also Wednesday, the Justice Department, that will be probing Google for possible breaches of antitrust law, held a telephone with state attorneys general’s offices to preview a complaint to be filed against the search and advertising giant, possibly as soon as next week, according to two sources knowledgeable about the matter.

It is normal for the department to seek out support from state attorneys general when it records big lawsuits.

Critics have accused Google, owned by Alphabet Inc, of breaking antitrust law by abusing its dominance of internet advertising and its Android smartphone operating platform in addition to favouring its own companies in search.

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The Justice Department is expected to wait another week prior to filing the litigation as countries review its situation and decide whether to join, individuals familiar with the matter said.

The White House explained the legal immunity discussion involved the way the attorneys general can use existing legal recourses in the country level – in a bid to weaken the law called Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects net companies from accountability over content posted by users.

Following the meeting, Trump told reporters he expects to come to a conclusion on the dilemma of technology platforms within a brief period. It wasn’t immediately clear what decision he was referring to.

He said his administration is watching the performance of the major tech platforms in the run-up to the presidential election on November the 3rd.

“Every year countless Americans are banned, blacklisted and silenced through arbitrary or malicious enforcement of ever-shifting rules,” he added.

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Trump, who frequently posts on Twitter, stated Twitter regularly restricts expressions of conservative perspectives.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Justice Department issued a legislative proposal to reform Section 230. It followed through on Trump’s bid earlier this year to crack down on tech giants after Twitter Inc placed warning labels on a number of Trump’s tweets, stating they have included potentially misleading details regarding mail-in voting.

The Justice Department’s suggestion would need congressional approval, and isn’t likely to see action until next year at the earliest. Until the Republicans win control of the House of Representatives and maintain control of the Senate in the November elections, any bill would need Democratic support.

The Justice Department proposal primarily states that when net businesses “willfully distribute illegal material or moderate content in bad faith, Section 230 should not shield them from the consequences of their actions.”

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It proposes a set of reforms to guarantee internet businesses are transparent about their conclusions when eliminating content and when they need to be held accountable for language they change. Additionally, it revises existing definitions of Section 230 with more tangible language that provides more guidance to courts and users.

It also incentivizes online platforms to deal with illicit content and drives to get more clarity on national civil enforcement activities.

The Internet Association, which represents major internet companies including Facebook, and Google, said the Justice Department’s proposal could severely restrict people’s ability to express themselves and have a safe experience online.

The team’s deputy general counsel, Elizabeth Banker, said moderation efforts that eliminate misinformation, platform manipulation and cyberbullying would result in lawsuits under the suggestion.

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