Trump Regime

DOJ Calls for Rolling Back Social Media Immunity

SK Ashby
Written by SK Ashby

Remember Trump's executive order calling for the repeal of legal immunity for social media platforms?

Trump's chief henchman, Attorney General William Barr, is now trying to make it official policy as the Department of Justice has published a proposed change to rules that have been in place since the 1990s.

Currently, a company like Twitter or Google can't be held legally responsible if a user posts something illegal on their own account, but the Trump regime would like to hold them responsible.

From The Wall Street Journal:

The Justice Department’s proposed changes will address the type of speech concerns raised by Mr. Trump, but they also extend more broadly, seeking to strip civil immunity afforded to tech companies in a range of other circumstances if online platforms are complicit in unlawful behavior taking place on their networks, the administration official said.

The department’s proposal, for instance, would remove legal protections when platforms facilitate or solicit third-party content or activity that violates federal criminal law, such as online scams and trafficking in illicit or counterfeit drugs. [...]

The department also wouldn’t confer immunity to platforms in instances involving online child exploitation and sexual abuse, terrorism or cyberstalking. Those carve-outs are needed to curtail immunity for internet companies to allow victims to seek redress, the official said.

Republicans think it would be very clever to go down this road because they genuinely believe that social media platforms are biased against conservatives, but the net effect of these changes wouldn't be more conservative speech; it would be less speech altogether.

A platform that can be held legally responsible for what their users post is a platform that will be even quicker to de-platform and ban users who say or do questionable things. This would also be a legal disaster for exclusively right-wing platforms such as the infamous 4-Chan platform which has spawned countless movements and hoaxes with real-world negative consequences.

It's not that I would personally be upset if new rules meant platforms for white supremacists could be held legally responsible if their platform is used to organize a deadly event, but for every instance like that there would be many others with a less positive outcome. It would be wonderful to see Trump banned from sites like Twitter since he frequently shares misinformation that has had deadly results, but it's a legal Pandora's Box that probably shouldn't be opened.

The good news is there's not a very high chance that this will be codified into law as it would require an act of Congress, but it's not impossible.

Social media platforms are not ideologically biased against conservatives. It just so happens that most of the users banned from online platforms are conservative because they frequently trade in dangerous conspiracy theories, misinformation, abuse, and targeted harassment. But even with that said, the most popular posts shared on Facebook usually originate from Fox News and other right wing websites.