William Barr, the US Attorney General, says that social media companies have to make their censorship policies clear and a “reasonably-based reason” for pulling down content. His remarks reiterate the White House and Department of Justice (DOJ) recent attacks on Section 230, which shields tech companies from liability due to user-generated content.
Speaking to Fox News, the AG said that social platforms are censoring content based on what they deem right. Therefore, they have become publishers instead of maintaining neutrality. According to Barr, the lack of neutrality means these companies should no longer enjoy the liability shield of 🛡 Section 230.
“You can take down stuff that is unlawful, and you can take down stuff that does not accord with your terms of service. But you have to make your terms of service clear. You have to have a reasonably-based reason for taking down,” Barr said.
Barr also noted that social platforms are operating on a “bait-and-switch” model. They lured in users with different opinions. Now that they have billions of users and a strong market position, “they are starting to censor different viewpoints.”
The problem is these companies are few and large. So, they can easily shape users’ perceptions, and that is a big problem, according to Barr. “They’re only presenting one viewpoint, and they can push the public in a particular direction very quickly.”
Barr claimed that one way of discouraging these companies from online bias is through antitrust laws. Last week, the DOJ, which is headed by Barr, came up with a proposal that would force social platforms to enforce censorship rules equally.