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Trump Wants to Change the Communications Decency Act

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA), says that "No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider."

The law was passed in 1996 in order to shield ISPs that transported content or platforms that hosted it from lability. Bloggers were not responsible for comments on their posts, YouTube and Facebook were not responsible for things users posted, etc. However, ISPs and content hosts have the right to set their own acceptable-use policies and can label or censor material that violates those policies.

For example, when Donald Trump posted unsubstantiated claims about mail-in ballots on Twitter, they added a fact-checking link reading "Get the facts about mail-in ballots" to the post:

(Note that Trump has tweeted the same claim about mail-in ballots on other occasions, and those were not marked).

Trump's response to Twitter's labeling of his tweet was to file a petition requesting that the Federal Communications Commission clarify that the CDA "does not permit social media companies that alter or editorialize users' speech to escape civil liability." Trump evidently wants to be able to sue Twitter for appending a fact-check link to his post.

This is a familiar Trump tactic, as made clear in the book "Plaintiff in Chief: A Portrait of Donald Trump in 3,500 Lawsuits" by former federal prosecutor James D. Zirin, a Republican. Click here for an American Bar Association review of the book.

The day he issued his executive order Trump, the most powerful victim on the planet, tweeted the following, presumably to justify his action:

I am not a lawyer or an Attorney General, but it seems clear to me that Twitter and others have the right to publish fact-checking material on their Web sites and I doubt that this petition will prevail if challenged.

By Larry Press, Professor of Information Systems at California State University – He has been on the faculties of the University of Lund, Sweden and the University of Southern California, and worked for IBM and the System Development Corporation. Larry maintains a blog on Internet applications and implications at cis471.blogspot.com and follows Cuban Internet development at laredcubana.blogspot.com. Visit Page

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Comments

Mailing out ballots By Phil Howard  –  Aug 13, 2020 7:54 pm PDT

The risk, as I see it, is the mass mailing out.  Those people that could never imagine voting will get one.  Many will just toss them in the trash, ID and all.  For its primary, West Virginia mass mailed out an application to get a ballot.

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