When President Trump signed an Executive Order on Preventing Online Censorship, much of the attention was on the ? potential impact such an order could have on the liability protections Big Tech companies are granted under Section 230 of The Communications Decency Act (CDA).
However, in an interview with political commentator Mark Dice, Commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Brendan Carr brought attention to another less talked about aspect of this Executive Order which calls for a “Federal Review of Unfair or Deceptive Acts or Practices.”
In the interview, Carr noted that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will be tasked with reviewing whether these social media companies are following their own terms of services and applying them fairly under this section.
Carr also discussed how many executives from these companies have publicly stated to Congress that they operate without political bias and added that these companies should be held accountable for how they apply their terms of service:
“Like any other business in this country, they are defining their terms of service and that means something and you need to be held accountable if you are, you know, blowing through your terms of service, just to get at people you don’t like.”
Additionally, Carr noted that these are platforms where people are “building significant economic activity on” and said if these platforms ban users who are abiding by the terms of service, this is a “business practice that fits in the unfair or deceptive business practice realm that the FTC could look at.”
Carr didn’t elaborate on how the FTC could take action against these platforms if it found evidence of unfair or deceptive business practices but the FTC’s previous enforcement action against Big Tech companies for privacy violations has involved a combination of fines and settlements.
In June 2019, the FTC fined Facebook one month’s revenue as part of a settlement over repeated privacy violations.
This settlement was widely criticized for letting Facebook off for all its past privacy violations, including those never made public.
And in September 2019, the FTC fined YouTube $170 million for alleged violations of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and required it to “develop, implement, and maintain a system that permits channel owners to identify their child-directed content on the YouTube platform so that YouTube can ensure it is complying with COPPA.”
In response, YouTube introduced sweeping changes that have resulted in many creators having their income wiped out.