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No pressure to act on Section 230 big tech liability shield – FCC chair

In the wake of an Oct. 15 announcement to move forward with a petition to clarify the meaning of a prized legal shield for online platforms, U.S. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai told reporters on Oct. 27 that he felt no pressure to act on the issue.

Pai's announcement followed an executive order from President Donald Trump in May that directed the Commerce Department to file a petition for rulemaking with the FCC. It asked the agency to review Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act and propose regulations to clarify the scope of immunity. It also requested that the agency clarify conditions where restricting access to material is not done in good faith.

The law is a landmark piece of legislation that protects internet platforms from civil and criminal liability for content created and posted by users.

The announcement from Pai came on the same day that Senate Republicans said they planned to subpoena Twitter Inc. CEO Jack Dorsey to testify about the social media platform's recent actions to limit sharing of a New York Post article about the alleged business dealings of Hunter Biden, the son of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

The day before Pai's announcement, President Donald Trump tweeted, "REPEAL SECTION 230!!!"

Pai was asked on Oct. 27 about the time frame for agency action on the item. Depending on the type of action taken, the process could drag on past the Trump administration's current term.

"I can't speak to either the timeframe or the particular procedural vehicle through which the commission may proceed at this time," said Pai.

The top executives from Alphabet Inc.'s Google LLC , Facebook Inc. and Twitter are set to testify before a U.S. Senate panel on Oct. 28 about their content moderation practices amid allegations of censorship from Republican lawmakers and increasing calls to modify big tech's legal liability shield.

Separately, the Senate Judiciary Committee recently announced that Dorsey and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will testify before the committee about "censorship and suppression of New York Post articles" on Nov. 17.

Section 230 has been challenged by members of both parties, though there are key areas of disagreement over which content moderation practices should be deemed objectionable, if Congress were to overhaul the law.