US Justice Department proposes laws to weaken protections for social media firms

Donald Trump - Alex Brandon /AP
Donald Trump – Alex Brandon /AP

The US Department of Justice is preparing new laws to dilute legal protections for tech firms if they attempt to censor content on their social media platforms.

A senior official in the Trump administration claimed the proposals, which could be pitched as soon as this week, were aimed at preventing US tech giants such as Facebook from removing content without clear explanations, according to the Wall Street Journal. 

The new legislation would also roll back protections for companies that host content from third parties that could be considered harmful under their own moderation policies, aiming to make them take greater responsibility for posts on their services. Details of the legislation are yet to be confirmed.

The move follows a feud between President Donald Trump and Twitter, which last month placed fact-checks on some of his tweets, prompting him to issue an executive order aiming to narrow a liability shield enjoyed by social-media companies.

Twitter's rules explained
Twitter’s rules explained

The US President claimed that tech firms had “unchecked power” and has previously accused them of censorship. He used the executive order to argue that social networks should not enjoy the immunity offered by Section 230 if they remove or edit posts.

The 24-year-old law claims an “interactive computer service” is seen as a “platform” that does not assume responsibility for the publishing of third party content, giving companies like Facebook carry no liability for the posts of their users.

However, the law has come under greater scrutiny in recent years as politicians in the US have looked to make tech firms more accountable for misinformation spread online as well as other harmful material.

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