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FCC Chair Ajit Pai says new rules are coming for Section 230

In a statement Thursday, Pai said he plans to "move forward" with rulemaking to clarify Section 230's meaning, citing "serious concerns" about tech platforms' liability protections coming from all corners of government. Later this month, the Senate is set to grill the heads of Facebook, Twitter, and Google about Section 230, and just this week, Justice Clarence Thomas issued a scathing rebuke of the law, urging the court to take up a case on the statute.

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Pai alluded to these lines of criticism in his statement, writing, "As elected officials consider whether to change the law, the question remains: What does Section 230 currently mean? Many advance an overly broad interpretation that in some cases shields social media companies from consumer protection laws in a way that has no basis in the text of Section 230."

The FCC's decision to take up rulemaking on the law extends back to President Trump's executive order on Section 230, which instructed the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to petition the FCC to do just that. This summer, the FCC asked for public comments on the order and received a flood of opposition from the tech industry.

The FCC's review of Section 230 also provoked strong reactions from at least one of its sitting commissioners, Jessica Rosenworcel. "This is not a provision where Congress specifically asked us to enact rules, nor has the FCC had a history of acting in this area," Rosenworcel told Protocol in September. "While the agency might have authority, I think proceeding in the manner that the president has pushed in the executive order is a reach too far."

Pai disagrees, writing in his statement, "The Commission's General Counsel has informed me that the FCC has the legal authority to interpret Section 230."

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