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Department Of Justice’s Overhaul Threatens Google, Facebook, Twitter

The US Department of Justice has outlined its proposed overhaul of legal protections for online platforms, which, if implemented, would significantly impact the operations of Google and Facebook.

So far, online platforms have previously had immunity from lawsuits over content that their users post under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996. The Department of Justice’s proposed roll-back would open online platforms up to new lawsuits.

The changes propose to limit social media platforms’ discretion over removing political posts. In recent weeks Twitter has moved to fact-check US President Donald Trump’s tweets. In response, Trump signed an executive order aimed at preventing online censorship in late May.

A Trump administration official told the Wall Street Journal that it would ensure online platforms are “fairer and more consistent in their decisions to take down content they find objectionable”.

At the same time, the legal adjustments would also force online platforms to be more stringent in removing illicit or harmful content from their sites. This would include child exploitation, terrorism, cyberstalking, and sexual abuse.

The changes would also remove liability protection for encrypted platforms such as WhatsApp, owned by Facebook.

Both Facebook and Twitter have responded to the proposal by reaffirming their support of the existing legal protections.

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