Professor Olivier Sylvain talked to The Hill about an executive order being considered by the Trump administration that would push the Federal Communications Commission and Federal Trade Commission to police the decisions that social media companies make regarding content censorship.
But Trump’s attacks on Silicon Valley echo those of other Republicans who have advocated an aggressive assault on the social media world and on its legal protections. The suspicions of anti-conservative bias have propelled many in the GOP to call for amending, or even gutting, a law known as Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
That law gives websites broad legal immunity for what their users write on their platforms, while also shielding them from liability for taking efforts to moderate their sites as they see fit. Republicans are increasingly championing the idea that companies such as Facebook and Twitter should be stripped of such immunity for infringing on political speech.
Olivier Sylvain, a law professor at Fordham University who has argued that Section 230’s protections should be curtailed, said the problem with the law is not that it allows social media companies to clean up their platforms, but it shields them from consequences when their technology is weaponized against their users.
“My argument is that the very people that civil rights statutes are written for, the very people for whom consumer protection statutes are written for, are exposed to greater threat and harm under the current broad immunity under Section 230,” Sylvain told The Hill.
“The way in which courts have read the statute, Section 230 now effectively enables the further degradation of communities that are supposed to be protected under law,” he added. “The principle problem is that, free from having to attend to constitutional regulations of speech, too many companies have not heeded their social responsibility. That’s the real problem.”