Justice Tells Hill it Should Consider Jettisoning Sec. 230

U.S. Capitol
(Image credit: Capitol)

The Trump Justice Department has joined the President in arguing that Twitter and Facebook's restriction of access to a story in the New York Post about Hunter Biden is evidence that social media need regulating.

That came in a letter from Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd to the Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate Commerce Committee and House Energy & Commerce Committee.

Related: Justice Unveils Legislation to Regulate Social Media

The Senate Commerce Committee is holding a hearing Wednesday (Oct. 28) with the CEOs of Twitter, Facebook and Google about regulating that space. House Republicans on the Energy & Commerce Committee also want to hold a hearing on the issue, as does Senate Judiciary, which has subpoenaed Twitter and Facebook CEOs.

Boyd said the department was buoyed, as it were, by what he called an emerging consensus that it was time to reform Sec. 230, which provides social media sites immunity from civil liability for how they moderate most of the third-party content on their sites, including if they take down or block content they consider objectionable.

"The events of recent days have made reform even more urgent," Boyd said in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by the Wall Street Journal. "Today’s large online platforms hold tremendous power over the information and views available to the American people. It is therefore critical that they be honest and transparent with users about how they use that power. And when they are not, it is critical that they can be held accountable. For example, the decision by two social media companies to restrict access to news content of significant public interest from the New York Post, a widely distributed journalism publication, is quite concerning."

While Justice has recommended legislative changes to Sec 230, and the FCC is planning to 'clarify' it, Boyd said Congress may want to "start from a blank slate to account for the dramatic changes in this industry."

Boyd said he was confident there was a way to preserve the free exchange of ideas, innovation, safety and transparency. 

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.