Sen. Hawley Questions Twitter's Sec. 230 Immunity

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) is suggesting Twitter should have its Sec. 230 liability protection for its treatment of third-party content revoked for how it treated Tweets by President Donald Trump. "It makes little sense to treat companies that publish their editorial comments about others’ content as if they are mere distributors," he said. 

Twitter flagged the President's tweets suggesting mail-in ballots were a fraud and included fact-check links to info on such ballots.  

In response, Hawley wrote Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey Wednesday (May 27) to ask why Twitter should get that Sec. 230 liability protection. 

"Twitter currently receives special immunity under the law in what’s known as Section 230, which states that companies that merely distribute user content should not be treated like a publisher, such as the New York Times or the Washington Post," he said. "But, with Twitter’s decision to editorialize on President Trump’s tweets, the company appears to be acting like a publisher, and Senator Hawley is asking why Twitter should continue to receive special protection for distributors if it is going to act like a publisher." 

Hawley also asks whether Trump was targeted for political purposes and if Twitter will similarly fact check presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and Chinese Communist Party propaganda.  

Hawley has already concluded the President was targeted over his politics. 

"Twitter’s unprecedented decision to single out the President for disfavor, based on his political speech, is alarming," Hawley wrote Dorsey. "Twitter’s decision to editorialize regarding the content of political speech raises questions about why Twitter should continue receiving special status and special immunity from publisher liability." 

It was the second letter of the day from Hawley to a tech giant. He wrote Google CEO Sundar Pichai over YouTube's deletion of speech critical of the Chinese Communist Party, which Google attributed to a mistake it was fixing. 

The President fired off tweets Wednesday criticizing Twitter and suggesting some big action was forthcoming. He also said that social media should be shut down if they censor conservative speech. 

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.