Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is leading a coalition of four Republican state attorneys general in supporting President Donald Trump’s petition to narrow the ability of social media platforms to remove objectionable content and require new transparency rules.
Citing what they view as editing or even suppressing political speech by Facebook, Amazon and others, Paxton and his counterparts in Louisiana, Indiana and Missouri said in joint comments made public on Thursday that new rules are needed. They argue that social media platforms cannot be truly free “unless the participants understand the rules of the forum, and competition is able to provide alternatives when speech restrictions go too far.”
“Section 230 [of the federal Communications Act] was intended to promote free speech, competition, and enforcement of criminal laws online,” the AGs write to the Federal Communications Commission. “Improper expansion of Section 230 by some courts, however, has allowed the largest and most powerful companies in the world the ability to violate state laws, exclude rivals, and squelch political speech.”
The petition asks the FCC to limit protections for social media companies under Section 230, a provision of the 1996 Communications Decency Act that shields social media companies from liability for content posted by their users and allows them to remove lawful but objectionable posts.
On Wednesday, a group representing major internet companies including Facebook Inc., Amazon.com Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google urged the FCC to reject the Trump administration’s petition, saying it was “misguided, lacks grounding in law, and poses serious public policy concerns.”
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai dismissed calls from the two Democrats on the agency’s five-member commission to reject the petition without public comment. He has declined to comment on the petition’s merits.
Trump directed the Commerce Department to file the petition after Twitter in May warned readers to fact-check his posts about unsubstantiated claims of fraud in mail-in voting.
The Republican attorneys general cited Twitter’s decision to flag Trump’s tweet.
“Twitter claimed the tweet was supported by ‘no evidence’ despite the fact that many experts — including signatories to this letter — can validate that claim,” they wrote.
Twitter on Thursday flagged two more tweets from Trump for violating its rules on civic and election integrity by urging voters to cast ballots twice, via mail and in person.
Also on Thursday, Facebook said it would stop accepting new political ads in the week before U.S. elections on Nov. 3 in a series of moves it billed as its final plan for reducing risks of misinformation and election interference.