FCC head Ajit Pai won't reform Section 230 before he leaves office

Steve Dent
·Associate Editor
·1 min read

After announcing that he planned to “clarify” the meaning Section 230 free speech internet rules back in October 2020, FAA chairman Ajit Pai has now said he won’t do so. That’s largely because he’ll be gone on January 20th when Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th US President. “There’s simply not sufficient time to complete the administrative steps necessary in order to resolve the rule-making. Given that reality, I do not believe it’s appropriate to move forward,” he told Protocol in an interview.

In reality, he likely didn’t have the power to change the rules anyway, as much as President Trump wanted and demanded it. Section 230, which gives social media sites like Twitter and Facebook immunity from lawsuits over user content, was drafted and passed by Congress. “The FCC cannot rewrite acts of Congress to suit its whims,” the ACLU’s senior legislative counsel Kate Ruane told Recode last year. “Section 230 is critical to protecting free speech online and the FCC has no authority to change it, especially not in ways that will undermine free expression.”

Pai also said that he wouldn’t "second-guess" Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media sites over their decisions to ban Trump from posting, and broke from Trump in the area of election fraud. “I think it was a terrible mistake to suggest that the results of the election, and particularly the process that culminated yesterday in the Senate and the House, could in any way be changed,” he said. “That was a terrible mistake and one that I do not think in any way should have been indulged.”