- Section 230 states that websites are not responsible for the content posted on their platforms.
- This principle has been criticized across the political spectrum in recent years.
- Trump sued Facebook, Twitter and YouTube for suspending his accounts.
The Justice Department intervened in former President Donald Trump’s lawsuit against Facebook to defend the constitutionality of Section 230, an Internet communications law, according to court documents.
Federal intervention argues that the government has an “unconditional right to intervene in defense of the law”, as is always permitted in cases where the constitutionality of a law is in question.
In July, Trump sued Facebook, Twitter and YouTube for suspending his accounts after posts he made during the Jan.6 uprising on the U.S. Capitol.
Trump took the case to South Florida; tech companies hit back, arguing the case should be brought to Northern California, where each of the platforms are based. A judge ruled that the case should be transferred to that jurisdiction, although the petition is still pending.
The Department of Justice is often inclined to defend federal laws when their constitutionality is challenged, although the agency sometimes refuses and is required to notify Congress when it does.
What is section 230?
Section 230 is a subsection of the Communications and Decency Act of 1996 that underpins much of how social media works in the United States. The policy states that websites are not responsible for the content posted on their platforms, a principle that has fueled the rise of modern social media.
The principle has come under intense scrutiny in recent years amid growing criticism from the tech industry across the political spectrum. Conservative activists and politicians argue that Section 230 unfairly shields social media platforms from guilt in cases where they moderate content. This leads to allegations of censorship on the part of the Conservatives.
During the election campaign, President Joe Biden said Section 230 should be “immediately revoked” because platforms like Facebook were spreading “lies they know to be false.” Biden has since raised concerns about misinformation on social media, arguing that a new framework is needed for online content.
Big tech companies retort that removing Section 230 outright would create worse social media platforms and, in some cases, force them to shut down the service altogether.
Industry groups that represent Big Tech in Washington have called for updated regulations, but often refuse to go into more detail on the policies most favored by tech platforms.
Follow Matthew Brown online @mrbrownsir.