Social media services could soon be treated as publications and not open platforms, the head of the US communication watchdog has announced.
The action by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) comes after Twitter and Facebook tried to censor bombshell revelations about Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said on Thursday his agency would move to “clarify ambiguities in section 230” at the request of the federal government's Department of Commerce.
“Social media companies have a First Amendment right to free speech,” Pai said in a statement. “But they do not have a First Amendment right to a special immunity denied to other media outlets, such as newspapers and broadcasters.”
The Commerce Department was responding to President Donald Trump's executive order in May to remove legal protections for social media sites after Twitter began placing "fact-check" tags on his tweets.
Those protections are granted under Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act.
"No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider," the legislation states.
Twitter and Facebook both blocked users from posting and sharing the story, with Twitter even shutting down the account of White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany.
Speaking at an election rally in Greenville, North Carolina, on Thursday, Trump warned "big tech" it would lose its legal privileges if it persisted - to cheers from the crowd.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 15, 2020
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Google and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai, and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey are set to testify before the Republican-controlled Senate's Commerce Committee on October 28 - less than a week before the November 3 presidential election.