Republican Senators ask FCC to 'clearly define' when social media platforms should receive liability protections

Republican Senators ask FCC to 'clearly define' when social media platforms should receive liability protections
© Greg Nash

A group of Republican Senators on Tuesday asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to "clearly" define when social media platforms should receive protections under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

The letter from Republican Sens. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioSchumer calls for Biden to declare climate emergency House formally sends impeachment to Senate, putting Trump on trial for Capitol riot Rubio reintroduces amendment to block court packing MORE (Fla.), Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyTo 'lower the temperature' raise commitments to federalism Leahy, not Roberts, to preside over impeachment trial Beto O'Rourke: Ted Cruz 'guilty of sedition' in Capitol insurrection MORE (Mo.), Kelly LoefflerKelly LoefflerLimbaugh falsely says Biden didn't win legitimately while reacting to inauguration Suburbs pose challenge for GOP in post-Trump era Democrats swear in three senators to gain majority MORE (Ga.) and Kevin CramerKevin John CramerGroup of GOP senators seeks to block Biden moves on Paris, Keystone McConnell faces conservative backlash over Trump criticism McConnell keeps GOP guessing on Trump impeachment MORE (N.D.) comes on the heels of an executive order from President TrumpDonald TrumpSchumer: Impeachment trial will be quick, doesn't need a lot of witnesses Nurse to be tapped by Biden as acting surgeon general: report Schumer calls for Biden to declare climate emergency MORE aimed at that same law.

Section 230 gives companies operating online immunity for content posted on their platforms by third parties and allows them to make "good faith" efforts to moderate content.


Trump's executive order, among other things, directs an agency within the Commerce Department to file a petition with the FCC to clarify the scope of Section 230.

The order implies that a reinterpretation of the rule could make social media platforms more liable for claims based on third-party content, as well as their efforts to moderate their platforms.

Tuesday's letter focuses on what that review by the FCC could look like.

It says that it is time to "take a fresh look at" the portion of Section 230 that gives immunity for efforts to police platforms, calling the "good faith" standard vague in the statute.

The letter also ask the FCC to evaluate court precedent on granting companies immunity for editing and altering content, which is likely a reference to Twitter applying warning labels to some of Trump's tweets.

That sort of action is already not protected under Section 230.

While Hawley and Rubio have been outspoken critics of big tech companies, Loeffler and Cramer signing on to the letter suggests a larger base of Republican lawmaker support for the administration's efforts to regulate social media platforms.