FCC Chairman Expresses Desire to Reform Section 230

On Thursday, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai issued a statement indicating his eagerness to clarify Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Pai stated that he intended to move forward with a rulemaking proceeding to redefine the law’s immunity provision, which currently shields internet companies from liability caused by third-party-generated online content on their platforms.

Pai remarked that “[m]embers of all three branches of the federal government have expressed serious concerns about the prevailing interpretation of the immunity set forth in Section 230 of the Communications Act. There is bipartisan support in Congress to reform the law.” Pai referenced commentary issued earlier this week by Justice Clarence Thomas who expressed his opinion that the high court should soon seize the opportunity to realign the law with its original intent.

Pai noted the general confusion currently clouding Section 230, positing, “[w]hat does Section 230 currently mean?” He further stated that “[m]any advance an overly broad interpretation that in some cases shields social media companies from consumer protection laws in a way that has no basis in the text of Section 230.” With regard to the FCC’s proposed rulemaking, Pai explained that the telecommunications body’s general counsel said the FCC had the legal authority to proceed.

On the same day, FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr commended Chairman Pai on his announcement, stating, “Section 230 reform is long overdue. The status quo isn’t working. That is why I have called for the FCC to take action and do our part to rein in Big Tech. Chairman Pai is right that the FCC has legal authority to interpret Section 230, and I applaud his leadership in announcing the FCC will move forward with clarifying the statute.” Carr’s press release noted that he believes Section 230 is problematic because it affords Big Tech “special protections that go beyond the First Amendment rights that protect everyone in this country.”