On Wednesday, The New York Post published a blockbuster story about a “smoking gun” email allegedly proving that then-Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter introduced the VP to an executive at the notoriously corrupt Ukrainian gas company Burisma — before Joe Biden pressured the Ukrainian president to fire a prosecutor looking into Burisma. Facebook announced that it was reducing the article’s distribution, even before any fact-check. Twitter also apparently prevented an editor at the Post from tweeting the article.
President Donald Trump was livid. In fact, he called for legislative action — a repeal of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
“So terrible that Facebook and Twitter took down the story of ‘Smoking Gun’ emails related to Sleepy Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, in the [New York Post]. It is only the beginning for them. There is nothing worse than a corrupt politician,” Trump tweeted.
Then he added, “REPEAL SECTION 230!!!”
So terrible that Facebook and Twitter took down the story of “Smoking Gun” emails related to Sleepy Joe Biden and his son, Hunter, in the @NYPost. It is only the beginning for them. There is nothing worse than a corrupt politician. REPEAL SECTION 230!!! https://t.co/g1RJFpIVUZ
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 14, 2020
Section 230 grants internet platforms legal immunity for third party content on the platforms. This has allowed the internet to become a hub of free discourse, although some have claimed that Big Tech companies like Facebook and Twitter have violated Section 230 by censoring content.
Sens. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) have suggested that Facebook’s and Twitter’s censorship of the Hunter Biden story represents an attempt “to influence the upcoming Presidential election.”
Trump has previously called for and even implemented alterations to the way Section 230 protects Big Tech companies from liability.
In May, the president signed an executive order directing the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) “to prohibit social media companies from engaging in any deceptive acts or practices regarding commerce.” While this executive order will have some impact, Trump will likely have to work with Congress in order to truly restructure or “ban” Section 230. Any such reform would have to tread carefully since the protection from liability is key to an open internet.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.