FCC invites public comment on Trump’s petition


Ajit Pai, the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has decided to seek public opinion on a petition filed by the Trump administration seeking new transparency rules in how social media companies’ moderate content.

The decision came after President Donald Trump directed the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to file the petition after Twitter Inc, in May warned readers to fact-check his posts about unsubstantiated claims of fraud in mail-in voting.

Section 230 essentially prevents companies like Facebook and Google from being liable for content they merely host, as long as they work to take down illegal content quickly. Some feel these protections has given the companies the opportunity to manipulate speech on their platforms — Trump felt targeted by a fact-check warning placed by Twitter on his unsupported claims of fraud in mail-in warning.

Previously, Pai had said he does not see a role for the FCC to regulate websites, but on Monday he changed his view by stating that the FCC “should welcome vigorous debate – not foreclose it. The American people deserve to have a say, and we will give them that chance.”

FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks, a Democrat, wrote on Twitter that Congress, not the FCC, should act. “Perhaps when comments are in, we can package up the whole docket and send it over to Congress-where this debate belongs,” Starks wrote.

The July 27 NTIA petition asks the FCC to limit protections for social media companies under Section 230, a provision of the 1996 Communications Decency Act that shields social media companies from liability for content posted by their users and allows them to remove lawful but objectionable posts.

The NTIA wants the FCC to require social media companies to “publicly disclose accurate information regarding its content-management mechanisms” to “enable users to make more informed choices about competitive alternatives.”

Trump, a Republican who is running for re-election on Nov. 3, has repeatedly expressed anger at social media companies.

The FCC could take a year or longer to finalize any rules.