Section 230 reform: Trump’s FCC begins dismantling First Amendment

First Amendment free speech Section 230

From the very beginning of his 2016 campaign to today, Donald Trump has been working at dismantling the First Amendment, specifically free speech and a free press. With yesterday’s FCC announcement about the plan to “reform” Section 230 of the Communications Act, the dismantling is about to begin.

During a rally in February, 2016, he waged open war against the media and the First Amendment with a promise to open up libel laws to make it easier to sue the news media for writing “purposely negative and horrible and false articles” in order to “win lots of money” — a threat he has followed through on as president.

In addition to the news media, Trump has been threatening to crush social media and other private companies for questioning his awesomeness, calling for platforms like Facebook and Twitter to be shut down for displeasing him.

Earlier this year, Trump began following through on his threat to shut down social media companies who fail to deliver content he approves of with an Orwellian-sounding executive order entitled, “Preventing Online Censorship.”

Trump’s executive order called for an “update” to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, shredding the First Amendment in the process. Using the full weight of the federal government to enforce his wishes, Trump’s order labeled government regulation of our speech as “free speech,” and called any resistance government messaging (i.e. propaganda) “censorship.”

Section 230 “reform” is nothing new. Trump, with help from Attorney General Bill Barr and a few members of Trump’s bought-and-paid-for Republican Party, have been using the issue in their war against the First Amendment to punish political enemies while simultaneously giving the state more control of the internet. Section 5 of Preventing Online Censorship reads:

Trump and Barr want Section 230 protections for social media companies essentially eliminated by taking away their immunity from lawsuits in order to make it easier for users to sue them if they decide to remove a user’s content from their platform. More significant, however, is the portion of the order that prevents companies from using Section 230 to avoid lawsuits filed against them by the federal government.

In application, this will guarantee government’s full control of speech on the internet.

Trumpist Republicans have been on board with dismantling the First Amendment under the Section 230 “reform” umbrella.

Before the ink was dry on Trump’s Preventing Online Censorship executive order, a group of Senate Republicans introduced the Limiting Section 230 Immunity to Good Samaritans Act, a bill that delivers on his demand to limit Section 230 immunity for social media platforms. The bill was sponsored by anti-big tech nationalist Sen. Josh Hawley and co-sponsored by Sens. Marco Rubio, Mike Braun, and Tom Cotton.

According to a press release at the time, Hawley’s proposal would remove Section 230 immunity for tech companies unless they promise in their terms of service to operate in good faith. This would open companies to being sued for breaching their contractual duties, according to the release, with a penalty of $5,000 per claim or actual damages, whichever is higher, along with attorney’s fees.

However, Hawley and crew were a little late to the “let’s destroy the First Amendment” party.

Back in January, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) — who has a history of favoring government control of speech — introduced the Eliminating Abusive and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies (EARN IT) Act, a bill that gives the federal government complete authority to grant or deny Section 230 protection for social media platforms based on their “compliance” with rules established by the government under the bill.

Saying at the time that he didn’t “buy anything” said by tech companies, Graham accused them of only caring about not getting sued, and he threatened the entire industry with legislation that would completely strip them of Section 230 protection if his bill fails to pass due to their opposition.

And as we all know, nothing says “this is a good, Constitutional bill” like threatening anyone who opposes it with the hammer and cycle of big government.

In response to Trump’s tweet attacking the “mainstream media” and “big tech,” Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Ajit Pai tweeted an announcement about his intention to “clarify the meaning” of Section 230.

“Social media companies have a First Amendment right to free speech. But they do not have a First Amendment right to a special immunity denied to other media outlets, such as newspapers and broadcasters.

“The Commission’s General Counsel has informed me that the FCC has the legal authority to interpret Section 230. Consistent with this advice, I intend to move forward with a rulemaking to clarify its meaning.”

Trump and his FCC flunkies are simply wrong about Section 230. It doesn’t convey “a special immunity denied to other media outlets, such as newspapers and broadcasters.” In reality, it is a piece of legislation that applies equally to everyone: social media companies, newspapers, and broadcasters alike. 

But being right or wrong about Section 230 isn’t really the issue. This is about Donald Trump. This is about power. This is about growing big government. This is about destroying political enemies. This is about spreading tyranny. This is about dismantling the First Amendment.

In a series of tweets, Justin Amash said it this way:

Concerning free speech, George Orwell once said, ”If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”

We used to believe that in America, but in the Age of Trump, we are fast approaching the day where the voices of those who dare to tell the President or others in Washington what they don’t want to hear will be silenced by Big Brother . . . and the Trumpists will cheer as liberty dies to thunderous applause. (H/T Senator Padme Amidala of the Galactic Empire)

I’ve shared this before, but if you’d like a primer on Section 230 and why Trump and the GOP want to see it destroyed to make way for government control of the internet, check out the video below from


David Leach is the owner of the Strident Conservative. He holds people of every political stripe accountable for their failure to uphold conservative values, and he promotes those values instead of political parties.

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