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FCC defends helping Trump, claims authority over social media law

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | Peter Dazeley)

The Federal Communications Commission’s top lawyer today explained the FCC’s theory of why it can grant President Donald Trump’s request for a new interpretation of a law that provides legal protection to social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook.

Critics of FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s plan from both the left and right say the FCC has no authority to reinterpret Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which gives legal immunity to online platforms that block or modify content posted by users. FCC General Counsel Thomas Johnson said those critics are wrong in a blog post published on the FCC website today.

Johnson noted that the Communications Decency Act was passed by Congress as part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which was an update to the Communications Act of 1934 that established the FCC and provided it with regulatory authority. Johnson also pointed to Section 201(b) of the Communications Act, which gave the FCC power to “prescribe such rules and regulations as may be necessary in the public interest to carry out the provisions of this Act.”

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