The actions of Facebook and Twitter to ban President Donald Trump are protected by Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Act. This is the same Section 230 behind which social media companies have sheltered to protect them from liability for the dissemination of the hate, lies and conspiracies that ultimately led to the assault on the U.S. Capitol on January 6. These actions are better late than never. But the proverbial horse has left the barn.
Months before COVID-19, the Federal Communications Commission voted to loosen broadcasters’ obligations to carry core “educational and informative” content across their networks. The National Association of Broadcasters thanked the FCC profusely, touting that obligations to carry “low-rated children’s programming” would have serious economic consequences when stations were already dealing with shrinking profits.
The abusive practices of the dominant digital platforms are so widespread and have become so embedded that there is no single solution. What is needed is a cocktail of remedies that blends antitrust with ongoing regulatory oversight. The digital-oversight cocktail, therefore, needs to include the ability to establish industry-wide behavioral rules in addition to antitrust enforcement.