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Pai said in a statement Thursday.

“Social media companies have a First Amendment right to free speech. But they do not have a First Amendment right to a special immunity denied to other media outlets, such as newspapers and broadcasters.”

This is in regards to regulating "social media" outlets.

What immunity do newspapers NOT have that the likes of Facebook enjoy? I ask, because I was under the understanding that a newspaper would be enjoying greater freedoms, as they have very explicit first amendment protection.

Note this question is in law section, only interested in how newspapers are regulated, whereas "social media" companies are not. What greater freedoms do these companies enjoy.

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  • @Trish Pai (Ajit Pai) is the chairman of the FCC. The "First Amendment" regarding free speech is the US Constitution, since the other ones do not have that as a first amendment. You can reasonably conclude that this question is focusing on the US Constitution/law...
    – Ron Beyer
    Oct 16, 2020 at 13:30
  • @RonBeyer I always ask if it is not specifically mentioned anywhere, as I am certainly not sure which other constitutions might have as structure.
    – Trish
    Oct 16, 2020 at 15:13

1 Answer 1

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The additional protections for social-media platforms comes from Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, not from the First Amendment.

Section 230 basically provides immunity from defamation and other kinds of liability. Generally speaking, it applies only to platforms, i.e., companies providing a service for other people to create and post content. This goes beyond social-media companies to include message boards, blogging platforms, dating websites, etc.

Newspapers generally do not enjoy this protection because the information that they post on their websites is information that they have generated themselves.

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  • Interactive computer services...Washington Post could create a service and post only their content as well as non-commercial user-generated content?
    – paulj
    Oct 16, 2020 at 15:36
  • This is 95% accurate, so +1, but the issue of current debate is whether full editorial discretion is what distinguishes newspapers from the social media companies. This is different from "the information which they generate themselves" because a great portion of many newspapers' content is created by 3rd parties. For example, they reprint licensed content from AP and Reuters verbatim.
    – grovkin
    Oct 16, 2020 at 16:08
  • @grovkin: Well, if newspapers do so on the internet, then they are indeed subject to section 230. The law is very broadly written. It would even cover things like letters to the editor, which usually are heavily moderated. The newspapers only lose this immunity when they print the material out and mail it to people.
    – Kevin
    Oct 16, 2020 at 17:09
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    @grovkin I don't see how the distinction between newspapers and social-media companies is relevant for Section 230 purposes. The relevant distinction is between "content providers" (who create information) and computer services (which allow other people to access other providers' content).
    – bdb484
    Oct 16, 2020 at 20:36
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    I've also wondered the same thing about whether printing wire reports triggers Section 230 immunity. I've never seen an anwer, and I suspect that it may be because you don't need to reach the question because many states recognize a "wire service privilege," which is basically Section 230 protection for newspapers printing wire content.
    – bdb484
    Oct 17, 2020 at 1:57

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