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Section 230

Defending Donald Trump Over Twitter, FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr Says President’s Attacks on Section 230 Are Constitutional

Elijah Labby

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Photo of Federal Communications Commissioner Brendan Carr in February 2018 by Gage Skidmore used with permission

June 2, 2020 — Federal Communications Commissioner Brendan Carr on Monday defended President Donald Trump’s attempts to punish Twitter’s fact-checking practices and said they were not in violation of the First Amendment.

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act protects electronic forums like Twitter and Facebook from legal action if their users post defamatory content and also allows these web platforms to block material they deem lewd, violent, discriminatory or otherwise objectionable.

However, opponents of Section 230 argue that Twitter's decision to post a fact check statement on one of Donald Trump's tweets had voided Section 230’s “good faith” content review criteria.

“Everybody in this country, social media platforms, Jack Dorsey, Mark Zuckerberg, you, me, we have free speech rights [and] Section 230 is not one of those,” Carr said.

The statement followed Trump’s Executive Order on Thursday to direct the Commerce Department to ask the FCC to re-evaluate Section 230. That move is likely to put the agency in a difficult spot considering that its Republican majority has cast itself as anti-regulatory.

However, Carr said that he has yet to be convinced by any legal argument that says that such a move by the agency would be overreaching, and that previous instances where the agency has declined to interfere in Section 230 were not applicable now.

“I think some of those prior statements that people have pointed to is a bit of a slight of hand,” he said.

Carr also said that such a move by the FCC has the potential to garner bipartisan support, given that former Vice President and current Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has also thrown his support behind repealing Section 230.

“I think that there's a lot of potential actions that we could take here,” Carr said. “I do think that there is sort of broad bipartisan, if not consensus, concern, such that I have a hard time seeing the status quo holding.”

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