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CRS – Free Speech and the Regulation of Social Media Conteny

Free Speech and the Regulation of Social Media Content. March 27, 2019 – “As the Supreme Court has recognized, social media sites like Facebook and Twitter have become important venues for users to exercise free speech rights protected under the First Amendment. Commentators and legislators, however, have questioned whether these social media platforms are living up to their reputation as digital public forums. Some have expressed concern that these sites are not doing enough to counter violent or false speech. At the same time, many argue that the platforms are unfairly banning and restricting access to potentially valuable speech.Currently, federal law does not offer much recourse for social media users who seek to challenge a social media provider’s decision about whether and how to present a user’s content. Lawsuits predicated on these sites’ decisions to host or remove content have been largely unsuccessful, facing at least two significant barriers under existing federal law.First, while individuals have sometimes alleged that these companies violated their free speech rights by discriminating against users’ content, courts have held that the First Amendment, which provides protection against state action, is not implicated by the actions of these private companies. Second, courts have concluded that many non-constitutional claims are barred by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, 47 U.S.C. § 230, which provides immunity to providers of interactive computer services, including social media providers,both for certain decisions to host content created by others and for actions taken “voluntarily”and “in good faith”to restrict access to “objectionable” material..”

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