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Why Trump Attacked the Internet's First Amendment

Online platforms have allowed millions of Americans to work from home, while rising share prices of major tech firms have fueled much of the stock market’s rebound. If the tech industry thought any of this would buy them political goodwill, however, they were mistaken. On Thursday, President Trump signed an executive order to curtail protections for the industry under a provision of federal law known as Section 230. Even as Republicans have been pushing to shield businesses from legal liability stemming from COVID-19, Trump’s order removes liability protections from social media platforms. “Amending Section 230 is always a challenging question because it has been such a bedrock in how online speech has developed in this country,” says Emma Llansó, director of the Free Expression Project at the Center for Democracy and Technology, a civil liberties group. It would be one thing to expect a magazine publisher to vet its own articles, but another thing entirely to expect social media companies to check millions of posts per day. When the law was enacted, Congress was thinking less about the infant Internet than traditional broadcasters and telecoms. But Section 230 allowed the Internet to flourish — not just social media giants such as Twitter and Facebook, but any site or Wiki or message board with a comment section.

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