What you need to know about Big Tech’s Section 230 shield, the internet law that Trump hated and Biden might reform

Joe Biden
President Joe Biden.

  • Section 230 is a part of a US law that allows tech companies to moderate content on their services.
  • It also means they are not liable for illegal things that people say on the platforms.
  • Trump hated the law and wanted to revoke it, while Biden supports some sort of Section 230 reform.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Chatter about Section 230, the part of US law that shields tech companies from legal liability, isn’t going away anytime soon.

It has become a contentious point in US politics and remains so under President Joe Biden, who tossed out former President Donald Trump’s executive order, dubbed “preventing online censorship,” in May. The order would have enabled officials to hold Twitter, Facebook, and their peers responsible if they removed or flagged users’ posts.

Most recently, Trump said he was suing Facebook, Twitter, and Google, accusing them of “censoring” users, even though Section 230 grants them the ability to moderate their platforms

But that doesn’t mean Section 230 reform isn’t a bipartisan issue – Biden has also voiced his support for repealing and reforming the law.

All of which is to say, it’s worth having a rundown of Section 230. Here’s what you need to know.

What is Section 230?

Section 230 is part of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, and its advocates have called it “the most important law protecting internet speech.”

It includes regulatory guidelines for “interactive computer services,” which now include modern-day social media companies like Twitter and Facebook.

The section, which has been described as “the 26 words that created the internet,” says: “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.”

This means that Twitter and Facebook can avoid being regulated as publishers and are protected from being held liable for illegal posts (with some exceptions). Whereas a newspaper would be held liable for the content it produces and publishes, social media companies can distance themselves from the content posted by people onto their platforms.

The section also gives social media sites the ability to regulate content, such as hate speech, on their platforms:

“No provider or user of an interactive computer service… shall be held liable on account of any action voluntarily taken in good faith to restrict access to or availability of material that the provider or user considers to be obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected.”

This specific text allows social media sites to remove or add warning labels to users’ posts or even suspend people who violate their rules. It’s also why tech companies don’t violate the First Amendment when they regulate content as they see fit.

Twitter and Facebook have largely taken a hands-off approach to moderating content. Still, they have removed or flagged posts that explicitly violate their policies, such as policies against inciting violence. For example, Twitter’s rules ban hate speech but such speech is allowed generally by the First Amendment.

Why do lawmakers care about Section 230?

President Donald Trump first started calling for Section 230 to be revoked in May 2020 after Twitter flagged two of his tweets about mail-in voting with a warning that read “Get the facts about mail-in ballots.”

Trump responded with an executive order targeting social-media companies’ protections under Section 230, which Biden revoked in May.

Trump’s now-revoked order had no effect on Section 230, but it raised the law’s public profile, and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle started discussing its possible revocation, though for very different reasons.

Republicans want to amend or revoke Section 230 to fight alleged censorship of conservative users online, while Democrats largely saw it as a way to make companies liable for harmful content, like disinformation.

Following the Georgia runoffs in January the Democrats control both Houses, meaning they have a better shot at re-crafting Section 230 the way they want.

This poses a potential threat to Big Tech executives. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said while testifying before a Senate Judiciary hearing in October 2020 that revoking Section 230 would “collapse how we communicate on the Internet.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

Facebook failed to protect against teen sex trafficking, court rules, paving the way for tech companies to be held liable when they’re used for criminal activity

mark zuckerberg facebook
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in Washington D.C. on Oct. 23, 2019

  • The Texas Supreme Court ruled that Facebook can be held liable for sex trafficking recruitment.
  • Facebook argued that it should not be held liable because it is shielded by Section 230.
  • A recent report found most online recruitment in active sex trafficking cases in 2020 was on Facebook.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The Texas Supreme Court ruled Friday that Facebook can be held liable for sex traffickers that use its platform to recruit and prey on child victims.

As the Houston Chronicle reported, the ruling followed three local lawsuits involving teenage victims who had met their traffickers through Facebook’s messaging tools. The plaintiffs said Facebook was negligent and did not attempt to key sex trafficking off its technology.

Facebook has argued that it is shielded by the protections of Section 230 – part of an internet law that states online platforms are not liable for what people post on their services – and should therefore not be held responsible for what is posted on its platform.

But the Texas Supreme Court said Section 230 doesn’t mean Facebook can operate as a “lawless no-man’s-land,” as the Chronicle reported.

“Holding internet platforms accountable for the words or actions of their users is one thing, and the federal precedent uniformly dictates that section 230 does not allow it,” the majority of the court said, per the Chronicle. “Holding internet platforms accountable for their own misdeeds is quite another thing. This is particularly the case for human trafficking.”

Facebook did not immediately respond to Insider’s request or comment.

Section 230 has become the focus of conversations surrounding moderation on internet platforms. Many have called for tech companies to be treated as publishers, since news outlets are alternatively held liable for what they post online.

Online recruitment for sex trafficking victims has surged over the years, and a recent report from the Human Trafficking Institute found that most online recruitment in active cases last year occurred on Facebook.

“The internet has become the dominant tool that traffickers use to recruit victims, and they often recruit them on a number of very common social networking websites,” Human Trafficking Institute CEO Victor Boutros told CBS News earlier this month. “Facebook overwhelmingly is used by traffickers to recruit victims in active sex trafficking cases.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

The wild life of billionaire Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, who eats one meal a day, has faced attempted oustings, and had to defend his company in front of Congress

twitter jack dorsey
Jack Dorsey at the digital fair dmexco in Cologne, Germany, September 13, 2017.

  • Jack Dorsey cofounded Twitter in 2006, and the company has made him a billionaire.
  • He is famous for his unusual life of luxury, including a daily fasting routine and regular ice baths.
  • Dorsey holds two CEO jobs at Twitter and his payment company Square.
  • Visit Business Insider’s home page for more stories.

From fighting armies of bots to quashing rumors about sending his beard hair to rapper Azealia Banks, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey leads an unusual life of luxury.

Dorsey has had a turbulent career in Silicon Valley. After cofounding Twitter on March 21 2006, he was booted as the company’s CEO two years later, but returned in 2015 having set up his second company, Square.

Since then, he has led the company through the techlash that has engulfed social media companies, testifying before Congress multiple times.

Dorsey has also provoked his fair share of controversy and criticism, extolling fasting and ice baths as part of his daily routine. His existence is not entirely spartan, however. Like some other billionaires, he owns a stunning house, dates models, and drives fast cars.

Scroll on to read more about the fabulous life of Jack Dorsey.

Rebecca Borison and Madeline Stone contributed reporting to an earlier version of this story.

Dorsey began programming while attending Bishop DuBourg High School in St. Louis.

Jack Dorsey

At age 15, Dorsey wrote dispatch software that is still used by some taxi companies.

Source: Bio.

When he wasn’t checking out specialty electronics stores or running a fantasy football league for his friends, Dorsey frequently attended punk-rock concerts.

jack dorsey young

These days Dorsey doesn’t favour the spiky hairdo.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

Like many of his fellow tech billionaires, Dorsey never graduated college.

jack dorsey young

He briefly attended the Missouri University of Science and Technology and transferred to New York University before calling it quits.

Source: Bio.

In 2000, Dorsey built a simple prototype that let him update his friends on his life via BlackBerry and email messaging.

jack dorsey young

Nobody else really seemed interested, so he put away the idea for a bit.

Source: The Unofficial Stanford Blog

Fun fact: Jack Dorsey is also a licensed masseur.

jack dorsey 9:13

He got his license in about 2002, before exploding onto the tech scene.

Sources: The Wall Street Journal

He got a job at a podcasting company called Odeo, where he met his future Twitter cofounders.

twitter sxsw 2007 jack dorsey evan williams biz stone jason
Jack Dorsey, Biz Stone and Evan Williams took home the prize in the blogging category at SXSW in 2007.

Odeo went out of business in 2006, so Dorsey returned to his messaging idea, and Twitter was born.

On March 21, 2006, Dorsey posted the first tweet.

Jack Dorsey's first tweet
Jack Dorsey’s first tweet.

Dorsey kept his Twitter handle simple, “@jack.”

Dorsey and his cofounders, Evan Williams and Biz Stone, bought the Twitter domain name for roughly $7,000.

jack dorsey young

Dorsey took out his nose ring to look the part of a CEO. He was 30 years old.

A year later, Dorsey was already less hands-on at Twitter.

 Evan Williams and Jack Dorsey
Evan Williams and Jack Dorsey.

By 2008, Williams had taken over as CEO, and Dorsey transitioned to chairman of Twitter’s board. Dorsey immediately got started on new projects. He invested in Foursquare and launched a payments startup called Square that lets small-business owners accept credit card payments through a smartphone attachment.

Sources: Twitter and Bio.

In 2011, Dorsey got the chance to interview US President Barack Obama in the first Twitter Town Hall.

Jack Dorsey and President Obama in Twitter Town Hall
President Obama talks to the audience next to Jack Dorsey during his first ever Twitter Town Hall.

Dorsey had to remind Obama to keep his replies under 140 characters, Twitter’s limit at the time.

Source: Twitter

Twitter went public in November 2013, and within hours Dorsey was a billionaire.

Twitter founder Jack Dorsey

In 2014 Forbes pegged Dorsey’s net worth at $2.2 billion. As of March of this year he was worth roughly $5.1 billion.

Source: Bio. and Forbes

It was revealed in a 2019 filing that Dorsey earned just $1.40 for his job as Twitter CEO the previous year.

Jack Dorsey tramp beard
Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey, who doesn’t earn anything from his primary day job.

The $1.40 salary actually represented a pay rise for Dorsey, who in previous years had refused any payment at all.

He’s far from the only Silicon Valley mogul to take a measly salary, Mark Zuckerberg makes $1 a year as CEO of Facebook.

Dorsey does, however, hold Twitter shares worth $557 million at the time of the filing.

Source: Business Insider

He might have been worth more had he not given back 10% of his stock to Square.

Jack Dorsey at Sun Valley
Jack Dorsey with Hollywood producer Brian Grazer, Veronica Smiley, and Kate Greer at the annual Allen and Co. conference at the Sun Valley, Idaho Resort in 2013.

This helped Square employees, giving them more equity and stock options. It was also helpful in acquiring online food-delivery startup Caviar.

Sources: Business Insider and Caviar

With his newfound wealth, he bought a BMW 3 Series, but reportedly doesn’t drive it often.

bmw 4 series concept detroit auto show naias 2013

“Now he’s able to say, like, ‘The BMW is the only car I drive, because it’s the best automotive engineering on the planet,’ or whatever,” Twitter cofounder Biz Stone told The New Yorker in 2013.

Source: The New Yorker

He also reportedly paid $9.9 million for this seaside house on El Camino Del Mar in the exclusive Seacliff neighborhood of San Francisco.

Jack Dorsey 10 million San Francisco home

The house has a view of the Golden Gate Bridge, which Dorsey views as a marvel of design.

Source: Business Insider

Before the pandemic, Dorsey said he worked from home one day a week.

Dorsey home setup
Jack Dorsey’s home setup.

In an interview with journalist Kara Swisher conducted over Twitter, Dorsey said he worked every Tuesday out of his kitchen.

He also told Kara Swisher that Elon Musk is his favourite Twitter user.

elon musk
Elon Musk is a prolific tweeter.

Dorsey said Musk’s tweets are, “focused on solving existential problems and sharing his thinking openly.”

He added that he enjoys all the “ups and downs” that come with Musk’s sometimes unpredictable use of the site. Musk himself replied, tweeting his thanks and “Twitter rocks!” followed by a string of random emojis.

Source: Business Insider

Facebook CEO and rival Mark Zuckerberg once served Jack Dorsey a goat he killed himself.

goat eyes thumbnails 02

Dorsey told Rolling Stone about the meal, which took place in 2011. Dorsey said the goat was served cold, and that he personally stuck to salad.

Source: Rolling Stone

His eating habits have raised eyebrows.

Jack Dorsey

Appearing on a podcast run by a health guru who previously said that vaccines caused autism, Dorsey said he eats one meal a day and fasts all weekend. He said the first time he tried fasting it made him feel like he was hallucinating.

“It was a weird state to be in. But as I did it the next two times, it just became so apparent to me how much of our days are centered around meals and how — the experience I had was when I was fasting for much longer, how time really slowed down,” he said.

The comments drew fierce criticism from many who said Dorsey was normalizing eating disorders.

In a later interview with Wired Dorsey said he eats seven meals a week, “just dinner.”

Sources: Business Insider, The New Statesman

In the early days of Twitter, Dorsey aspired to be a fashion designer.

jack dorsey fashion

Dorsey would regularly don leather jackets and slim suits by Prada and Hermès, as well as Dior Homme reverse-collar dress shirts, a sort of stylish take on the popped collar.

More recently he favours edgier outfits, including the classic black turtleneck favoured by Silicon Valley luminaries like Steve Jobs.

Sources: CBS News and The Wall Street Journal

He also re-introduced the nose-ring and grew a beard.

Jack Dorsey

Dorsey seems to care less about looking the part of a traditional CEO these days.

Singer Azealia Banks claimed to have been sent clippings of Dorsey’s beard hair to fashion into a protective amulet, although Dorsey denied this happened.

azealia banks
Azealia Banks.

In 2016 Banks posted on her now-deleted Twitter account that Dorsey sent her his hair, “in an envelope.” Dorsey later told the HuffPo that the beard-posting incident never happened.

Sources: Business Insider and HuffPo

Dorsey frequently travels the world and shares his photos with his 4 million Twitter followers.

Dorsey Abe
Jack Dorsey meeting Japanese Prime Minister Sinzo Abe.

On his travels, Dorsey meets heads of state, including Japan’s former Prime Minister Shinzō Abe.

Source: Twitter

Tweets about his vacation in Myanmar also provoked an outcry.

bagan myanmar
Bagan, Myanmar.

Dorsey tweeted glowingly about a vacation he took to Myanmar for his birthday in December 2018. “If you’re willing to travel a bit, go to Myanmar,” he said.

This came at the height of the Rohingya crisis, and Dorsey was attacked for his blithe promotion of the country — especially since social media platforms were accused of having been complicit in fuelling hatred towards the Rohingya.

Source: Business Insider

However, Dorsey says he doesn’t care about “looking bad.”

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump listens to questions as he and first lady Melania Trump meet with South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in and his wife Kim Jung-sook in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 11, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Trump welcomes South Korea’s President Moon to the White House in Washington

In a bizarre Huffington Post interview in 2019, Dorsey was asked whether Donald Trump — an avid tweeter — could be removed from the platform if he called on his followers to murder a journalist. Dorsey gave a vague answer which drew sharp criticism.

Following the interview’s publication, Dorsey said he doesn’t care about “looking bad.”

“I care about being open about how we’re thinking and about what we see,” he added.

In September 2018, Jack Dorsey was grilled by lawmakers alongside Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg.

Jack Dorsey Sheryl Sandberg Twitter Facebook Senate
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Jack Dorsey are sworn-in for a Senate Intelligence Committee.

Dorsey and Sandberg were asked about election interference on Twitter and Facebook as well as alleged anti-conservative bias in social media companies.

Source: Business Insider

During the hearing, Dorsey shared a snapshot of his spiking heart rate on Twitter.

jack dorsey

Dorsey was in the hot seat for several hours. His heart rate peaked at 109 beats per minute.

Source: Business Insider

Dorsey testified before Congress once again on October 28, 2020.

Jack Dorsey hearing beard
Jack Dorsey tuning into the hearing with the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

Dorsey appeared via videoconference at the Senate hearing on Section 230, a part of US law that protects internet companies from legal liability for user-generated content, as well as giving them broad authority to decide how to moderate their own platforms.

In prepared testimony ahead of the hearing, Dorsey said stripping back Section 230 would “collapse how we communicate on the Internet,” and suggested ways for tech companies to make their moderation processes more transparent.

 

During the hearing, Dorsey once again faced accusations of anti-conservative bias

Jack Dorsey hearing
Jack Dorsey appearing virtually at the hearing.

The accusations from Republican lawmakers focused on the way Twitter enforces its policies, particularly the way it has labelled tweets from President Trump compared to other world leaders.

Dorsey took the brunt of questions from lawmakers, even though he appeared alongside Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Google CEO Sundar Pichai.

Source: Protocol

During the hearing, the length of Dorsey’s beard drew fascination from pundits.

Jack Dorsey hearing mic
Dorsey had to address accusations of censorship.

Some users referred to Dorsey’s facial hair as his “quarantine beard,” while others said it made him look like a wizard.

“Jack Dorsey’s beard is literally breaking Twitter’s own face detection,” posted cybersecurity blogging account @Swiftonsecurity.

 

Dorsey also addressed the way Twitter dealt with a dubiously sourced New York Post story about Hunter Biden.

Jack Dorsey hearing screen
Jack Dorsey appearing on-screen at the hearing.

When the New York Post published a report about Hunter Biden on October 14 that threw up red flags about sourcing, Twitter blocked users from sharing URLs citing its “hacked materials” policy.

Dorsey subsequently apologized publicly, saying it was wrong of Twitter to block URLs.

During the Senate hearing, Sen. Ted Cruz accused Twitter of taking the “unilateral decision to censor” the Post.

Dorsey said the Post’s Twitter account would remain locked until it deleted its original tweet, but that updated policies meant it could tweet the same story again without getting blocked.

Source: Business Insider

Dorsey had to appear before another hearing on November 17 – this time about how Twitter handled content moderation around the 2020 presidential election.

Jack Dorsey testimony.JPG

Dorsey was summoned alongside Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg by Republicans who were displeased with how the platforms had dealt with then-President Donald Trump’s social media accounts. 

Both CEOs defended their companies, saying they are politically neutral.

When he’s not in Washington, Dorsey regularly hops in and out of ice baths and saunas.

sauna
This is not Dorsey’s sauna.

Dorsey said in the “Tales of the Crypt” podcast that he started using ice baths and saunas in the evenings around 2016.

He will alternately sit in his barrel sauna for 15 minutes and then switch to an ice bath for three. He repeats this routine three times, before finishing it off with a one-minute ice bath.

He also likes to take an icy dip in the mornings to wake him up.

Source: CNBC

Dorsey’s dating life has sparked intrigue. In 2018, he was reported to be dating Sports Illustrated model Raven Lyn Corneil.

Jack Dorsey Raven Lyn Corneil

Page Six reported in September 2018 that the pair were spotted together at the Harper’s Bazaar Icons party during New York Fashion Week. Page Six also reported that Dorsey’s exes included actress Lily Cole and ballet dancer Sofiane Sylve.

Source: Page Six

He’s a big believer in cryptocurrency, frequently tweeting about its virtues.

jack dorsey

In particular, Dorsey is a fan of Bitcoin, which he described in early 2019 as “resilient” and “principled.” He told the “Tales of the Crypt” podcast in March that he was maxing out the $10,000 weekly spending limit on Square’s Cash App buying up Bitcoin.

In October 2020 he slammed Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong for forbidding employee activism at the company, saying cryptocurrency is itself a form of activism.

 

Source: Business Insider, Business Insider and CNBC

 

At the end of 2019 Dorsey said he would move to Africa for at least three months in 2020.

Jack Dorsey France

Dorsey’s announcement followed a tour of Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, and South Africa. “Africa will define the future (especially the bitcoin one!). Not sure where yet, but I’ll be living here for 3-6 months mid 2020,” he tweeted.

Dorsey hasn’t yet commented on how severely these plans may nor may not have been impacted by the pandemic.

Dorsey then came under threat of being ousted as Twitter CEO by activist investor Elliott Management.

Paul Singer Elliott Management
Paul Singer, founder and president of Elliott Management.

Both Bloomberg and CNBC reported in late February 2020 that major Twitter investor Elliott Management — led by Paul Singer — was seeking to replace Dorsey. 

Reasons given included the fact that Dorsey splits his time between two firms by acting as CEO to both Twitter and financial tech firm Square, as well as his planned move to Africa.

Source: Business Insider

Tesla CEO and frequent Twitter user Elon Musk weighed in on the news, throwing his support behind Dorsey.

Elon Musk
Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

“Just want to say that I support @jack as Twitter CEO,” Musk tweeted, adding that Dorsey has a good heart, using the heart emoji.

Source: Business Insider

Dorsey managed to strike a truce with Elliott Management.

Jack Dorsey

Twitter announced on March 9, 2020 that it had reached a deal with Elliott Management which would leave Jack Dorsey in place as CEO.

The deal included a $1 billion investment from private equity firm Silver Lake, and partners from both Elliott Management and Silver Lake joined Twitter’s board.

Patrick Pichette, lead independent director of Twitter’s board, said he was “confident we are on the right path with Jack’s leadership,” but added that a new temporary committee would be formed to instruct the board’s evaluation of Twitter’s leadership.

On April 7, Dorsey announced that he was forming a new charity fund that would help in global relief efforts amid the coronavirus pandemic.

jack dorsey twitter square ceo
Dorsey.

Dorsey said he would pour $1 billion of his own Square equity into the fund, or roughly 28% of his total wealth. 

The fund, dubbed Start Small LLC, will first focus on helping in the fight against the coronavirus disease, which has spread across the globe and infected more than 1.3 million people.

The CEO said he will be making all transactions on behalf of the fund public in a spreadsheet.

On July 15, hackers compromised 130 Twitter accounts in a bitcoin scam.

twitter bill gates crypto scam

The accounts of high-profile verified accounts belonging to Bill Gates, Kim Kardashian West, and others were hacked, with attackers tweeting out posts asking users to send payment in bitcoin to fraudulent cryptocurrency addresses.

As a solution, Twitter temporarily blocked all verified accounts — those with blue check marks on their profiles — but the damage was done.

 

 

Elon Musk said he personally contacted Dorsey following the hack.

Jack Dorsey Elon Musk
Elon Musk (left) and Dorsey.

During a July 2020 interview with The New York Times, Musk said he had immediately called Dorsey after he learned about the hack.

“Within a few minutes of the post coming up, I immediately got texts from a bunch of people I know, then I immediately called Jack so probably within less than five minutes my account was locked,” said Musk.

Source: The New York Times

In March 2021 Dorsey put his first-ever tweet up for auction.

jack dorsey twitter
Jack Dorsey, Twitter CEO, and Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO, off camera, testify during a Senate (Select) Intelligence Committee hearing in Dirksen Building where they testified on the influence of foreign operations on social media on September 5, 2018

As the craze for Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) gathered momentum, Dorsey announced he was auctioning his first tweet for charity. The bidding started on March 9 and finishes on Sunday — Twitter’s 15th birthday.

Dorsey said proceeds from the auction will go to Give Directly’s Africa response. At time of writing, the highest bid was $2.5 million.

Read the original article on Business Insider

The key facts you need to know about Section 230, the controversial internet law that Trump hated and Biden might reform

joe biden
President Joe Biden has hinted that Section 230 could be revoked or reformed.

  • The Biden administration is reportedly looking into either reforming or even revoking Section 230.
  • Section 230 is a part of US law that gives sites the ability to regulate content on their platforms. 
  • It also means they are not liable for illegal content posted to their platforms by users.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Section 230, the part of US law that shields tech companies from legal liability, is back under fire.

Reuters reported this week that Congressional Democrats have started talking to the White House about cracking down on Big Tech, potentially by making them accountable for harmful misinformation that spreads on their platforms. 

Democratic representative Tom Malinowski told Reuters Section 230 has been mentioned in these discussions as a way for holding Big Tech responsible for harmful content.

Section 230 has become a contentious point in US politics and as a presidential candidate, Joe Biden also said he supported repealing the law, so it’s likely that it will continue to come under political scrutiny under his administration.

What is Section 230? 

Section 230 is part of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, and its advocates have called it “the most important law protecting internet speech.”

It includes a variety of guidelines for regulation of “interactive computer services,” which, today, includes social media companies like Twitter and Facebook. 

The section, which has been described as “the 26 words that created the internet,” says “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.” 

This essentially allows sites like Twitter and Facebook to avoid being regulated as publishers, protecting them from being held liable for illegal posts (with some exceptions). Whereas a newspaper would be held liable for the content it produces and publishes, social media companies are able to distance themselves from the content posted by people onto their platforms. 

The section also gives social media sites the ability to regulate content, such as hate speech, on their platforms: 

“No provider or user of an interactive computer service… shall be held liable on account of any action voluntarily taken in good faith to restrict access to or availability of material that the provider or user considers to be obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected.” 

This specific text protects social-media sites against claims from people who say the First Amendment gives them the power to post whatever they’d like, as long as it’s not illegal, without it being taken down. 

While sites like Twitter and Facebook have been hesitant to regulate speech on their platforms, they have removed or flagged content if it explicitly violates their policies, such as policies against inciting violence. For example, Twitter’s rules ban hate speech but such speech is allowed generally by the First Amendment. 

Why do lawmakers care about Section 230?

President Donald Trump first started calling for Section 230 to be revoked in May last year after Twitter flagged two of his tweets about mail-in voting with a warning that read “Get the facts about mail-in ballots.” 

The move prompted Trump to issue an executive order targeting social-media companies’ protections under Section 230. 

The order directed federal agencies to alter Section 230 and change the way they interpret and enforce Section 230, and while it ultimately had no effect on the law it raised its public profile and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle started discussing its possible revocation – though for very different reasons.

Republicans viewed amending or revoking Section 230 as a way to combat perceived anti-conservative bias in Big Tech companies, while Democrats largely saw it as a way to make companies liable for harmful content.

Following the Georgia runoffs in January the Democrats control both Houses, meaning they have a better shot at re-crafting Section 230 the way they want

This poses a potential threat to Big Tech executives, who say that changing Section 230 could chill freedom of speech online.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said while testifying before a Senate Judiciary hearing in October that revoking Section 230 would mean platforms like theirs would pre-emptively take down far more content out of fear of legal liability, leaving less room for nuanced moderation.

Legal expert Jeff Kosseff told Insider in January that fully revoking Section 230 could counter-intuitively end up entrenching the power of Big Tech companies.

“The companies impacted by Section 230 are not just Facebook and Twitter and Google. It’s any company that operates a website that hosts user content, so it’s everything from Facebook to a small local news site that allows user comments,” Kosseff said.

Read the original article on Business Insider

What you need to know about Section 230, the controversial internet law Trump hated and Biden might reform

Joe Biden
President Joe Biden.

  • The Biden administration is reportedly looking into either reforming or even revoking Section 230.
  • Section 230 is a part of US law that gives sites the ability to regulate content on their platforms. 
  • It also means they are not liable for illegal content posted to their platforms by users.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Section 230, the part of US law that shields tech companies from legal liability, is back under fire.

Reuters reported this week that Congressional Democrats have started talking to the White House about cracking down on Big Tech, potentially by making them accountable for harmful misinformation that spreads on their platforms. 

Democratic representative Tom Malinowski told Reuters Section 230 has been mentioned in these discussions as a way for holding Big Tech responsible for harmful content.

Section 230 has become a contentious point in US politics and as a presidential candidate, Joe Biden also said he supported repealing the law, so it’s likely that it will continue to come under political scrutiny under his administration.

What is Section 230? 

Section 230 is part of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, and its advocates have called it “the most important law protecting internet speech.”

It includes a variety of guidelines for regulation of “interactive computer services,” which, today, includes social media companies like Twitter and Facebook. 

The section, which has been described as “the 26 words that created the internet,” says “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.” 

This essentially allows sites like Twitter and Facebook to avoid being regulated as publishers, protecting them from being held liable for illegal posts (with some exceptions). Whereas a newspaper would be held liable for the content it produces and publishes, social media companies are able to distance themselves from the content posted by people onto their platforms. 

The section also gives social media sites the ability to regulate content, such as hate speech, on their platforms: 

“No provider or user of an interactive computer service… shall be held liable on account of any action voluntarily taken in good faith to restrict access to or availability of material that the provider or user considers to be obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected.” 

This specific text protects social-media sites against claims from people who say the First Amendment gives them the power to post whatever they’d like, as long as it’s not illegal, without it being taken down. 

While sites like Twitter and Facebook have been hesitant to regulate speech on their platforms, they have removed or flagged content if it explicitly violates their policies, such as policies against inciting violence. For example, Twitter’s rules ban hate speech but such speech is allowed generally by the First Amendment. 

Why do lawmakers care about Section 230?

President Donald Trump first started calling for Section 230 to be revoked in May last year after Twitter flagged two of his tweets about mail-in voting with a warning that read “Get the facts about mail-in ballots.” 

The move prompted Trump to issue an executive order targeting social-media companies’ protections under Section 230. 

The order directed federal agencies to alter Section 230 and change the way they interpret and enforce Section 230, and while it ultimately had no effect on the law it raised its public profile and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle started discussing its possible revocation – though for very different reasons.

Republicans viewed amending or revoking Section 230 as a way to combat perceived anti-conservative bias in Big Tech companies, while Democrats largely saw it as a way to make companies liable for harmful content.

Following the Georgia runoffs in January the Democrats control both Houses, meaning they have a better shot at re-crafting Section 230 the way they want

This poses a potential threat to Big Tech executives, who say that changing Section 230 could chill freedom of speech online.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said while testifying before a Senate Judiciary hearing in October that revoking Section 230 would mean platforms like theirs would pre-emptively take down far more content out of fear of legal liability, leaving less room for nuanced moderation.

Legal expert Jeff Kosseff told Insider in January that fully revoking Section 230 could counter-intuitively end up entrenching the power of Big Tech companies.

“The companies impacted by Section 230 are not just Facebook and Twitter and Google. It’s any company that operates a website that hosts user content, so it’s everything from Facebook to a small local news site that allows user comments,” Kosseff said.

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Biden appoints FTC and FCC acting directors in move that signals a more aggressive approach to regulating big tech

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FTC acting director Rebecca Kelly Slaughter and FCC acting director Jessica Rosenworcel.

  • Biden picked Rebecca Kelly Slaughter and Jessica Rosenworcel as acting FTC and FCC directors.
  • The two Democrats have been more aggressive regulating big tech in the past than Trump’s appointees.
  • They also favor many of Biden’s stances on issues like internet access, net neutrality, and privacy.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

President Joe Biden made two key agency appointments on Thursday that offer an early window into how his administration could approach regulating the tech and telecom industries.

Biden selected Democrat Rebecca Kelly Slaughter as acting director of the Federal Trade Commission and Democrat Jessica Rosenworcel as acting director of the Federal Communications Commission.

Slaughter began her term at the FTC in May 2018, after being nominated by President Donald Trump. Rosenworcel was first nominated to serve on the FCC by President Barack Obama in 2012, and is the longest-serving Democratic commissioner at the agency.

The appointments signal that Biden’s administration will likely continue to get tougher on regulating tech and telecom companies, building on the Trump administration’s mix of increasing antitrust enforcement, attempts to roll back Section 230’s legal protections for internet companies, and laissez-faire approach to telecom regulations.

The outgoing FTC Chairman Joe Simons, a Trump appointee, had begun to ramp up the agency’s antitrust and consumer privacy work, opening several landmark investigations into Facebook, Amazon, Google, and even started looking at past mergers and acquisitions by big tech.

Slaughter has supported the FTC’s increasingly hard line on antitrust issues as well as privacy, but she has also argued the agency should have taken action earlier and issued harsher penalties more likely to deter companies from future law-breaking, including holding executives personally liable for their companies’ privacy violations.

Slaugher has also said that the FTC’s enforcement efforts should be “anti-racist” through ensuring markets aren’t racially discriminatory and protecting consumers from algorithmic bias.

Rosenworcel’s appointment to the FCC, however, marks an even greater departure from her predecessor, the outgoing Chairman Ajit Pai.

A former Verizon lawyer, Pai drew criticism for being overly friendly toward the companies under his agency’s purview, opposing overwhelmingly popular net neutrality rules, and doing little to improve Americans’ internet speeds or ability to access the internet in the first place.

Rosenworcel has pushed for the FCC to use its authority and resources to expand internet access, particularly to students whose lack of home internet has prevented them from keeping up in school while participating in remote learning during the pandemic – the so-called “homework gap.” She has also voiced support for net neutrality in the past, and will likely face pressure to reinstate the policy.

Slaughter and Rosenworcel will likely play a key role in any efforts to modify Section 230, which some Democrats say lets tech companies off the hook for not doing enough to disincentivize hate speech, harassment, and violence on their platforms.

The appointments aren’t final, as Biden will still need to decide whether to nominate Slaughter and Rosenworcel as permanent chairs. They will also likely face delays implementing their more ambitious plans until Biden nominates additional commissioners to break the current 2-2 split between Democrats and Republicans at both agencies.

Both the FTC and FCC are led by as many as five commissioners, appointed by the president, and neither is allowed to have more than three members of one party. Biden’s appointments will need to be confirmed by the Senate, a likely prospect as Vice President Kamala Harris could break any tie between the evenly divided upper chamber.

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Amazon hits back at Parler’s antitrust lawsuit with extensive examples of its violent content, including death threats against Democrats, GOP, tech CEOs, and BLM

Parler logo
Amazon cited more than a dozen examples of content posted to the controversial social media platform Parler that it said violated Amazon’s policies.

  • Amazon responded on Tuesday to a lawsuit filed by Parler that accused the tech giant of violating antitrust laws by banning the controversial social media platform from using Amazon Web Services.
  • In its response, Amazon alleged that Parler violated its contract by refusing to remove more than 100 examples of violent content, including death threats against prominent Democrats, Republicans tech executives, and supporters of Black Lives Matter.
  • Amazon also cited Section 230 as part of its defense against Parler’s claims that Amazon conspired with Twitter to hurt Parler’s business by kicking it off AWS.
  • Major tech companies including Apple and Google cut ties with Parler this week amid revelations that far-right insurrectionists used the social media platform to organize and incite violence at the US Capitol.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Amazon filed its response Tuesday to an antitrust suit brought against it by Parler, arguing that the social media upstart’s refusal to remove violent content from its platform violated its contract, and that Parler had failed to prove any antitrust claims. 

Parler sued Amazon on Monday after the tech giant booted the platform from its web-hosting service, Amazon Web Services, amid public outcry over Parler’s role in enabling far-right insurrectionists to organize and plan last week’s attacks on the US Capitol.

“This case is not about suppressing speech or stifling viewpoints. It is not about a conspiracy to restrain trade,” Amazon claimed in the court filing. “Instead, this case is about Parler’s demonstrated unwillingness and inability to remove… content that threatens the public safety, such as by inciting and planning the rape, torture, and assassination of named public officials and private citizens.”

Parler did not respond to a request for comment on this story.

Amazon cited more than a dozen examples of content posted to Parler that it said violated Amazon’s policies.

“We are going to fight in a civil War on Jan.20th, Form MILITIAS now and acquire targets,” one post said, according to the document, while another read: “White people need to ignite their racial identity and rain down suffering and death like a hurricane.”

Other Parler posts cited included death threats against prominent Democrats such as former President Barack Obama, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, as well as Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google’s parent company Alphabet.

Parler users also took aim at people of color, Black Lives Matter activists, Jews, teachers, the media, and professional sports leagues including the NBA, NFL, MLB, and NHL. 

Read more: Parler has been knocked offline for not moderating threats. Screenshots show what Capitol riot supporters posted before, during, and after the unrest.

“There is no legal basis in AWS’s customer agreements or otherwise to compel AWS to host content of this nature,” Amazon said, adding that it had notified Parler “repeatedly” beginning in mid-November 2020 about content that violated the terms of the two companies’ contract, but that Parler “was both unwilling and unable” to remove it.

Amazon also pushed back against Parler’s claims that Amazon’s actions were politically motivated and violated antitrust laws by deliberately favoring Twitter, which also uses AWS, and not taking similar action against it.

“AWS does not host Twitter’s feed, so of course it could not have suspended access to Twitter’s content,” Amazon said in the filing, noting that Twitter eventually blocked the violent content, while Parler refused to take similar steps.

Amazon also cited Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which gives companies that operate an “interactive computer service” the legal right to remove content as they see fit.

Read more: Inside the rapid and mysterious rise of Parler, the ‘free speech’ Twitter alternative, which created a platform for conservatives by burning the Silicon Valley script

Parler rose to prominence in recent months as mainstream social media sites have faced increasing pressure to crack down on hate speech, misinformation, and calls for violence.

Following the US presidential election in November, Trump supporters flocked to alternative social networks, including Parler, to plan election protests after Facebook and other sites banned groups that pushed baseless conspiracies. From November 3 to November 9, Parler was downloaded around 530,000 times in the US, according to data from Apptopia.

As a pro-Trump mob violently seized the US Capitol building on Wednesday in an attack that left five dead, the armed rioters used Parler and other conservative-leaning social media apps to organize. Apptopia told Business Insider that Parler downloads spiked to around 323% of their average weekly volume from October. 

But as revelations have emerged detailing how the insurrectionists leveraged Parler to carry out last week’s attacks, major tech companies have faced pressure to cut ties. Apple and Google both pulled the app from their app stores earlier this week, and Parler was forced to migrate its web hosting to Epik – a domain registrar known for hosting far-right extremist content – after being booted from AWS.

Expanded Coverage Module: capitol-siege-module

 

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Twitter and Facebook both banned Trump from their platforms. Here’s why that doesn’t violate the First Amendment – or any other laws

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Activist Mike Merrigan holds a piñata shaped like the Twitter logo with hair to look like U.S. President Donald Trump during a protest outside of Twitter headquarters on May 28, 2020 in San Francisco, California.

After months of escalating tensions between President Donald Trump and social media companies, Twitter and Facebook finally decided this week that the president had crossed a line too far.

On Wednesday, after Trump incited a mob of his supporters, thousands of them violently stormed the US Capitol, where Congress was voting to certify the results of the election, in an attempted insurrection that left five dead.

Though Trump posted a video briefly denouncing the violence, he then continued to use social media platforms to praise his supporters and once again repeat debunked conspiracy theories about the election.

Twitter and Facebook, both of which have policies against inciting violence, undermining democratic processes, and spreading election misinformation, decided that – given the impact that the president’s comments were having and continue to have – they would no longer let him use their platforms.

Twitter suspended Trump’s personal account, @realDonaldTrump, permanently, citing “the risk of further incitement of violence.” Facebook and Instagram suspended Trump “indefinitely and for at least the next two weeks until the peaceful transition of power is complete.”

Read more: Google and Apple are banning Parler from their app stores for allowing violent content in the wake of attempted insurrection that left 5 dead

Within hours of Twitter’s ban on Friday, Trump tried to bypass it by tweeting from the official presidential account, @POTUS. He posted a series of tweets railing against the social media company for “banning free speech” and taking aim at one of his favorite targets, Section 230. (Twitter quickly removed the tweets.)

But Trump’s implication – that Twitter somehow violated his First Amendment right to free speech – is a complete misunderstanding of what the First Amendment says.

Here’s why Twitter and Facebook, like other social media companies, have the right to ban Trump, and why Trump and other far-right politicians often take it out on Section 230.

What is the First Amendment?

The First Amendment to the US Constitution says: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances” [emphasis added].

In other words, it bans the government from infringing on free speech (with some limited exceptions).

What does that mean for social media companies?

Not much.

“The First Amendment is a constraint on the power of government. It doesn’t apply to Twitter,” said Daphne Keller, an attorney and internet law expert who leads the program on platform regulation at Stanford University’s Cyber Policy Center, adding: “Twitter is not a state actor.”

Why are Trump and his allies so mad then?

Trump, his allies, and others who have been hit with account suspensions, had warning labels applied to their posts, or had their advertising revenue shut off by companies like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube may disagree with those companies’ rules or approach to enforcing them – or they may just be mad that they can’t get their message out or make money from their audience or advertisers.

But legally, there’s very little they can do.

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 gives legal protections to “interactive computer services” – like social media companies – that: 1) prevents them from being held liable for content posted by their users (with some limited exceptions), and 2) allows them to moderate content on their sites as they see fit.

“Section 230 makes it relatively easy for platforms to go to court and win saying ‘we have the right to enforce whatever policies we want,'” Keller said. But even without Section 230, she said, Twitter would win if Trump sued “based on their own First Amendment right to set editorial policy on the platform.”

So, why do Trump and his allies still want to get rid of Section 230?

Trump and many far-right politicians have repeatedly claimed (without evidence) that social media companies are systemically biased against them, and they believe repealing or curbing Section 230 would allow them to use the government to deny Section 230’s legal protections to platforms that aren’t “politically neutral.”

Ironically, that’s exactly what the First Amendment prohibits, which legal experts quickly pointed out when Trump tried to use executive orders to accomplish that last summer. (Still, Trump loyalists in the Federal Communications Commission tried to implement it anyway.)

What would happen if they did repeal Section 230? 

Ignoring for a second that it’s legal for social media companies to be “biased” when enforcing content rules, right-wing politicians’ criticisms of Section 230 tend to ignore several key facts about who social media currently benefits – and who it would benefit if they repealed the law.

First, the evidence has consistently shown that conservatives tend to enjoy some of the widest reach and engagement on sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube – or at the least, conservatives have failed to produce evidence that their views are being silenced or their reach is being throttled.

Second, if social media companies lost the legal protections offered by Section 230, they would be more, not less likely to remove questionable content from their sites, because they’d (rightfully) be fearful of getting sued.

That purge could very likely hurt far-right accounts – something Facebook itself has implicitly acknowledged, according reports from The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post.

And increased legal liability could also make it harder for new competitors, like “alternative” social media sites Parler, Gab, and MeWe – where Trump supporters have flocked due to their lax approaches to regulating content – to get off the ground in the first place.

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Trump tried tweeting from the official POTUS account despite Twitter’s ban, but the tweets were immediately removed

Donald Trump on phone
President Donald Trump.

  • President Donald Trump tweeted from the official @POTUS Twitter account Friday evening shortly after the social media company permanently banned his personal account, @realDonaldTrump.
  • But Twitter almost immediately deleted the tweets, in which Trump railed against the tech company, Democrats, and Section 230, and said he was considering building his own social media platform.
  • Twitter told CBS News it doesn’t currently have plans to suspend @POTUS or @WhiteHouse, both government accounts, but is limiting their use.
  • A message from Trump was later attempted from his campaign’s Twitter account @TeamTrump but the tweet was deleted and the account suspended.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Just hours after Twitter permanently suspended Donald Trump’s personal account on Friday, the president began tweeting from the official account, @POTUS.

Almost immediately, Twitter removed the series of tweets, in which Trump railed against the tech company, Democrats, what he referred to as the “radical left,” and Section 230, a law that gives internet companies the right to police their platforms as they see fit.

Twitter also said it’s limiting the use of @POTUS or @WhiteHouse – both official accounts operated by the US government – and that it isn’t currently planning to suspend them, but that it may do so in the future “if it was really needed to alleviate harm,” according to CBS News’ Musadiq Bidar.

His campaign account @TeamTrump was also suspended after an attempt to send out a message from the president – a tweet that was deleted.

Twitter permanently blocked Trump from accessing his personal account, @realDonaldTrump, citing “the risk of further incitement of violence.”

Twitter’s decision followed Facebook’s move on Thursday to block Trump “indefinitely.” The latter platform cited the risks to the president continuing to use the site. Facebook’s ban will last for at least the next two weeks, until after President-elect Joe Biden takes office.

The actions by Twitter and Facebook against Trump came two days after pro-Trump rioters stormed the US Capitol as a joint session of Congress convened to certify the election results. The violent insurrection resulted in evacuations from the Capitol and five deaths.

Expanded Coverage Module: capitol-siege-module

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McConnell ties $2,000 stimulus checks to Trump-proposed poison pills on Section 230 and election fraud, likely sinking push for additional COVID-19 relief

mitch mcconnell donald trump scotus
Senate Maj. Leader Mitch McConnell and President Donald Trump

  • Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell introduced a bill Tuesday linking $2,000 stimulus checks to a repeal of Section 230 and a new commission to study election fraud, a move likely to doom the increased checks.
  • McConnell’s proposal came just hours after he blocked a House-passed bill that would have also boosted Americans’ stimulus payments, but without tackling the other items — both of which are top Trump priorities.
  • Trump and some Republicans have repeatedly railed against Section 230 — which shields internet companies from being sued over user-posted content — and made baseless accusations about election fraud, while Democrats have opposed them on both issues.
  • McConnell’s decision to tie increased stimulus checks to a Section 230 repeal and election fraud commission may sink the effort by pressuring Democrats to vote against the bill or help Trump notch three wins.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday introduced a bill tying $2,000 stimulus checks to unrelated items on President Donald Trump’s agenda: a full repeal of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act and the creation of a new Congressional committee to further investigate the integrity of the 2020 US elections.

By linking the increased payments to measures that Democrats oppose, so-called poison pills, McConnell’s bill will likely sink efforts to get Americans additional COVID-19 relief.

McConnell’s move comes just hours after he blocked a separate attempt by Democrats to hold a vote on $2,000 checks that didn’t include language on the other two issues.

“Senator McConnell knows how to make $2,000 survival checks reality and he knows how to kill them,” Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a press release.

“If Sen. McConnell tries loading up the bipartisan House-passed CASH Act with unrelated, partisan provisions that will do absolutely nothing to help struggling families across the country, it will not pass the House and cannot become law – any move like this by Sen. McConnell would be a blatant attempt to deprive Americans of a $2,000 survival check,” Schumer added.

Earlier on Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer had called for an immediate vote in the upper chamber on legislation known as the CASH Act, which was passed by the House on Monday night with the support of 44 Republicans and all but two Democrats.

McConnell has repeatedly opposed additional direct COVID-19 relief payments to Americans, previously calling them “crazy policy.” But he has also faced pressure recently from Democrats, Trump, and even some Republicans – ahead of pivotal runoff elections in Georgia for control of the Senate – to raise the amount to $2,000 from the $600 that Congress and Trump signed off on earlier this week.

Read more: $600 checks for most people, help for entertainment venues, airlines and public transit. Here’s what else is in the $900 billion stimulus Trump just signed.

Trump had threatened to veto the stimulus bill, because the checks were not for $2,000, but he eventually singed the $900 billion relief package.

On Tuesday, following McConnell’s decision to block the House proposal that would have done exactly that, Trump lashed out again, while also pushing Republicans to link the increased payments to his crusades against the tech industry and the presidential election results. 

“Unless Republicans have a death wish, and it is also the right thing to do, they must approve the $2000 payments ASAP. $600 IS NOT ENOUGH! Also, get rid of Section 230 – Don’t let Big Tech steal our Country, and don’t let the Democrats steal the Presidential Election. Get tough!” Trump tweeted.

By linking the $2,000 checks to Trump’s other demands – both of which Democrats have opposed – McConnell’s bill will likely pressure Democrats into voting down the measure, which in turn could give Republicans political cover to say they weren’t responsible for tanking the increased payments to Americans.

Trump has repeatedly railed against Section 230, a legal provision that shields internet companies from lawsuits over content posted on their sites by users and gives them the ability to regulate that content. Trump and some Republicans have mistakenly interpreted the law as requiring social media companies to be politically neutral, and have long complained – despite evidence to the contrary – that social media is biased against conservative viewpoints.

Trump has also repeatedly advanced baseless claims alleging widespread voter fraud in the 2020 US elections – and his lawyers have won zero out of least 40 lawsuits making such claims. (President-elect Joe Biden earned 306 Electoral College votes earlier this month, more than the 270 needed to win the presidential election, and won the popular vote by more than 7 million votes).

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