Online speech shield under fire as Trump Facebook ban stays

Online speech shield under fire as Trump Facebook ban stays
Facebook decided to continue ban on Mr Trump. Source: AP
2 Min Read

Daily US Times: Lurking beneath Facebook’s decision on whether to continue former US president Donald Trump’s suspension from Facebook is a far more consequential and complex question: Do the protections carved out for companies when the internet was in its infancy twenty-five years ago make sense when some of them have become global powerhouses with almost unlimited reach online?

The companies have provided a powerful megaphone for Donald Trump, billions of users and other world leaders to air their grievances, even ones that are damaging or false to someone’s reputation, knowing that the social media platforms themselves were shielded from liability for content posted by users.

Now that shield is facing a critical look in the current climate of hostility toward Big Tech and the social environment of hate speech, political polarization and violence against minorities.

The debate is starting to take root in the US Congress, and the action this week by social media giant Facebook’s quasi-independent oversight board upholding the company’s suspension of Donald Trump’s accounts could add momentum to that legislative effort.

Under the 1996 Communications Decency Act, digital platform companies have legal protection both for removing postings they deem offensive and content they carry. The shelter from prosecution and lawsuits applies to uploaded videos online, user reviews of restaurants or doctors, social media posts, classified ads — or the doxing underworld of thousands of websites that profit from false and defamatory information on individuals.

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