A project to reform a crucial piece of legislation in the United States on the liability of large web platforms has fallen through. Donald Trump had nevertheless called for the removal of a provision he deemed unfavorable to the Conservatives.
“Section 230”, which Donald Trump has repeatedly called for repeal in recent months when he realized that social networks were starting to moderate it, will not be affected. At least not in the near future. The reform project that was in the pipeline has been shelved, the US telecommunications regulator said in early January.
Its president, Ajit Pai, in fact informed the site on January 7. Protocol that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will not act on the incumbent’s request. It must be said that the FCC was running out of time anyway. At the end of November, we learned the future departure Ajit Pai from his post. His resignation will be effective January 20, when the Biden administration takes office.
Calls for the repeal of Section 230 in the second half of 2020, when Twitter was found to intervene to hide by default (without deleting it) a tweet from Donald Trump suggesting the flu is deadlier than the coronavirus . For its part, Facebook went more law by directly deleting the message published by the Head of State, for violation of its rules.
Section 230 is a provision of an American law (Communications Decency Act) passed in 1996. It defines the responsibility of online services for content that third parties, in this case Internet users, publish and share. It thus resembles the law for confidence in the digital economy (LCEN) in France, which also determines an a posteriori liability regime for platforms.
Protect conservative voices, says Trump
Trump’s obsession with tackling Section 230 was driven by the need, he said, to force the internet giants to be politically neutral. Conservatives in the United States believe that social media is clamping down on their voices and secretly using their algorithms to censor them – these claims against sites like Twitter, Facebook or YouTube have never been proven.
These efforts became more pressing as the presidential campaign came to an end, as Donald Trump was subject to a policy of increasing moderation on the part of Twitter – his main channel of communication, until ‘he is deprived of his personal account after the insurrectionary scenes in Washington – with warning labels and tweets hidden by default.
In fact, a major revision of section 230 would likely have produced an effect completely contrary to what Trump imagined: without legal protection, the internet giants in the United States would undoubtedly have considerably tightened their moderation to avoid lending a flank to any legal action. It probably would have hurt everyone, including the Conservatives.
Ajit Pai is a very controversial figure on the other side of the Atlantic for his proximity to the telecoms sector and for his active role in the disappearance of net neutrality. His successor must be chosen by Joe Biden, as the procedure provides. In fact, the FCC should return to a Democratic majority: the rules provide that a single party cannot appoint more than three commissioners out of five to the FCC.
The person who will take over from Ajit Pai will therefore have at least two major issues on the table.
What to do with section 230? In the Democratic camp too, section 230 is problematic: Joe Biden said he also wanted to get rid of, or in any case overhaul the law which exempts companies from their responsibility if they intervene quickly enough when a report is sent to them. ” Section 230 should be revoked “He said, referring to Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook.
Will net neutrality be reinstated in the USA? Several parliamentarians tried, without success, to counter the actions of the FCC during the era of Ajit Pai. The arrival of Joe Biden to power offers an ideal window of fire, especially as the Democratic camp, which is traditionally in favor of net neutrality, has the possibility of having control of the majority in both houses of the Congress.
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