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 RubioHillicon Valley: Big Tech hearing the most partisan yet | Rubio warns about foreign election interference | Trump campaign site briefly hacked Rubio warns that election interference may ramp up around Election Day Senate GOP to drop documentary series days before election hitting China, Democrats over coronavirus MORE (Fla.), Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyTrump announces intention to nominate two individuals to serve as FEC members Murkowski predicts Barrett won't overturn Roe v. Wade Infrastructure, energy investments urgently needed to create U.S. jobs MORE (Mo.), Kelly LoefflerKelly LoefflerThe Hill's Campaign Report: Biden's big battleground | Trump and Harris hit the trail in Arizona | Turnout surges among new voters Biden takes 5-point lead over Trump in Georgia in new poll Biden pushes into Trump territory MORE (Ga.) and Kevin CramerKevin John CramerGOP cool to White House's .6T coronavirus price tag Romney calls first Trump-Biden debate 'an embarrassment' Netflix distances from author's comments about Muslim Uyghurs but defends project MORE (N.D.) comes on the heels of an executive order from President TrumpDonald John TrumpHillary Clinton responds to Chrissy Teigen tweet: 'I love you back' Police called after Florida moms refuse to wear face masks at school board meeting about mask policy Supreme Court rejects Trump effort to shorten North Carolina mail-ballot deadline 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.