June 10, 2020 / 1:50 AM / a month ago

Republican senators push FCC to act on Trump social media order

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Four Republican U.S. senators on Tuesday urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to review whether to revise liability protections for internet companies after President Donald Trump urged action.

U.S. President Donald Trump is seated prior to signing an executive order regarding social media companies in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., May 28, 2020. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/Files

Trump said last month he wants to “remove or change” a provision of a law that shields social media companies from liability for content posted by their users and directed a U.S. Commerce Department agency to petition the FCC to take action within 60 days.

Senators Marco Rubio, Kelly Loeffler, Kevin Cramer and Josh Hawley asked the FCC to review Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act and “clearly define the criteria for which companies can receive protections under the statute.”

“Social media companies have become involved in a range of editorial and promotional activity; like publishers, they monetize, edit, and otherwise editorialize user content. It is time to take a fresh look at Section 230 and to interpret the vague standard of ‘good faith’ with specific guidelines and direction,” the senators wrote.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr, in an interview aired on Fox News Channel on Tuesday, echoed the senators’ views. “These entities are now engaged in censorship,” he said.

“We are looking, as many others are, at changing Section 230,” Barr said, adding that the change would require action by the U.S. Congress.

White House spokesman Judd Deere noted Trump’s executive order formally requesting the FCC take a second look at Section 230.

Trump’s order seeks to curtail their legal protections after Twitter Inc (TWTR.N) added a notice that one of his tweets violated its rules for “glorifying violence,” shortly after it slapped a fact-check label on another of his tweets opposing voting by mail. It was the first time Twitter had challenged his posts.

Last week, an advocacy group backed by the tech industry sued, asking a judge to block the executive order.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai - who in 2018 said he did not see a role for the agency to regulate websites like Facebook Inc (FB.O), Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) Google and Twitter - declined to comment on potential actions in response to Trump’s executive order. He told reporters on Tuesday it would not be appropriate to “prejudge a petition that I haven’t seen.”

FCC Commissioner Mike O’Rielly said on Tuesday the order poses a lot “of very complex issues.”

O’Rielly tweeted earlier “as a conservative, I’m troubled voices are stifled by liberal tech leaders. At same time, I’m extremely dedicated to the First Amendment which governs much here.”

Reporting by David Shepardson in Washington; Additional reporting by Alexandra Alper; Editing by Bill Berkrot and Cynthia Osterman

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