Aug 31, 2020 - Technology

AT&T will ask FCC to narrow Section 230 protections

A phone displaying the AT&T logo appears in front of the American flag.
Photo illustration: Budrul Chukrut/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

AT&T will tell the Federal Communications Commission it should craft rules to shrink tech's longstanding legal shield, the company said Monday.

Why it matters: AT&T is a telecom giant and, since buying Time Warner, a major force in media and entertainment — both industries that have butted heads with Silicon Valley. The company is now launching this fresh attack as tech is vulnerable in Washington.

Driving the news: AT&T in a Monday blog post previewed comments it will make to the FCC Wednesday on reinterpreting Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which shields tech companies from liability over content their users post.

  • The company will ask the FCC to modify Section 230 so that tech platforms don't get such broad immunity.
  • It will also argue that Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft and Google should be forced to be more transparent about the decisions they "make on a daily basis," like how they rank search results and feature news stories.

What they're saying: Congress could not have known "this provision... would ultimately be wielded by the largest and most powerful companies in the world as a shield not just from unfair and frivolous lawsuits, but from what many consider to be every day responsibilities," writes AT&T policy executive Joan Marsh.

Context: The FCC is taking comments on potentially writing rules to modify Section 230 following a request from the Commerce Department, per an executive order from President Trump.

  • Section 230 has never fallen under the FCC's jurisdiction before. Trump recently pulled GOP Commissioner Mike O'Rielly's nomination to a second term after he objected to the FCC claiming the authority to tinker with Section 230.


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