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FB, Twitter see legal battles regarding Trump EO

Miguel Paolo Togonon

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Facebook is up in arms over an executive order (EO) of US President Donald Trump that places restrictions on Section 23 of the Communications Decency Act, a statute that guards against censorship of free speech.

In a statement, Facebook said that as a platform for diverse views, it needs to protect the freedom of expression on its services, while striking off harmful content, including those designed to stop voters from exercising their right.

Facebook said repealing or limiting Section 230 will restrict more speech online, not less.

“By exposing companies to potential liability for everything that billions of people around the world say, this would penalize companies that choose to allow controversial speech and encourage platforms to censor anything that might offend anyone,” it said.

FB founder Mark Zuckerberg said censorship cannot be a tool to fight censorship. “In general, I think a government choosing to censor a platform because they’re worried about censorship doesn’t exactly strike me as the right reflex there,” he said.

Section 230 protects tech companies from being legally liable for what their users say. Trump said it should be “clarified” and its protections rolled back if a company isn’t acting in “good faith.”

Trump’s order, however, is unenforceable according to legal experts who see it as being in conflict with the US Constitution’s First Amendment.

Facebook found an ally in Twitter that described the EO as “reactionary and politicized” — one that will embroil social media companies in costly litigations.

“Section 230 protects American innovation and freedom of expression, and it’s underpinned by
democratic values,” Twitter said in a statement.

“Attempts to unilaterally erode it threatens the future of online speech and Internet freedoms.”

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