WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump’s effort to regulate social media companies’ content decisions may face an uphill battle from regulators who have previously said they cannot oversee the conduct of internet firms.
Trump said last week that he wants to “remove or change” a provision of a law that shields social media companies from liability for content posted by their users.
He signed an executive order that directed the Commerce Department to petition the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to write rules clarifying social media companies’ legal protections under Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act.
FCC chairman Ajit Pai did not endorse the proposal but said in a written statement “this debate is an important one” and added the FCC “will carefully review any petition for rulemaking.”
In August 2018, Pai said he hoped social media companies would embrace free speech but did not see a role for the FCC to regulate websites like Facebook (FB.O), Alphabet’s (GOOGL.O) Google and Twitter (TWTR.N).
“They are not going to be regulated in terms of free speech,” Pai said at a forum. “The government is not here to regulate these platforms. We don’t have the power to do that.”
Another Republican on the five-member commission, Mike O’Rielly, expressed mixed feelings.
“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,” O’Rielly wrote on Twitter. The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects free speech.
Former FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell, a Republican, wrote on Twitter that the review is “based on political #speech management of platforms. So many wobbly parts to this govt ‘nudge.’ I don’t see how it survives.”