Biden administration intervenes in Trump lawsuit against Facebook to defend Section 230

The Biden administration is intervening in former President Donald Trump’s lawsuit against Facebook to defend legal liability protections for tech platforms.

The administration sided with Facebook in defending a legal provision, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, despite President Biden campaigning against the protection in his White House run two years ago.

Mr. Trump has argued that Facebook’s ban of him violates the First Amendment, and Mr. Trump’s lawyers have challenged Section 230, which provides the legal liability protections, as unconstitutional.

The Biden administration last week jumped into the dispute between Mr. Trump and Facebook — which has reorganized as Meta — to support the constitutionality of Section 230.

The Justice Department’s brief urges the federal judiciary not to rule on the constitutionality of Section 230 and said Mr. Trump misunderstands the law and prior court rulings.

“Section 230(c) does not require online service providers to limit or regulate speech by their users,”  the brief stated. “Instead, Section 230(c) allows companies like Meta Platforms to choose to remove content or allow it to remain on their platforms, without facing liability as publishers or speakers for those editorial decisions. … Section 230(c) does not reflect a preference for restricting content, much less for restricting content relating to any particular viewpoint.”

The Biden administration’s intervention in defense of Section 230 stands in contrast to Mr. Biden’s remarks on the 2020 campaign trail, when he argued that Section 230 protections should be removed for Facebook.

“The idea that it’s a tech company is that Section 230 should be revoked, immediately should be revoked, number one. For [Facebook CEO Mark] Zuckerberg and other platforms,” Mr. Biden told The New York Times in January 2020.

Mr. Biden’s campaign against Section 230 was not met by immediate action during his first year in office. The Biden administration has pursued a lawsuit against Facebook brought by the Federal Trade Commission on antitrust grounds.

Mr. Trump’s case against Facebook that began in Florida last July has since been transferred to California.

The former president’s legal battle with Big Tech is being supported by the America First Policy Institute, a conservative think tank aiming to make Mr. Trump’s agenda a policy roadmap for people to follow.

AFPI’s Constitutional Litigation Partnership, which is led by former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, said it views the Biden administration’s intervention as an indication that Big Tech and the federal government are working together to censor people.  

Meta has also filed a motion to dismiss Mr. Trump’s case.


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