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The FCC Will Draft Rules To “Clarify” Section 230

Yesterday, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a statement announcing that the FCC would draft rules to “clarify” the scope of Section 230 and the liability shield it affords to websites that moderate user-generated content posted to their sites. The move is in response to a request from the Trump administration, specifically, a petition for rulemaking by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (the executive branch agency responsible for advising the president on telecommunications and information policy issues). The statement also explains that the FCC’s general counsel has advised the FCC that the commission has the authority to interpret websites’ obligations under Section 230 (though many critics argue that Congress did not give the FCC the authority needed to clarify or interpret this specific section of the law).

Chairman Ajit Pai’s statement briefly lists the various proposed Section 230 reforms, including U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ recent 10-page statement imploring the Court to interpret Section 230, should an appropriate case come before it on petition. Later this month, CEOs of social media platforms will testify before the Senate Commerce Committee on Section 230. Read our alert summarizing the current Section 230 proposals and developments here

As of the time of Chairman Pai’s statement, Section 230 was not on the agenda for the FCC’s Open Commission Meeting scheduled for Oct. 27, and the meeting agenda for Nov. 18 has yet to be released.