Technology Law / Cyber Law

The Twitter Feud: A critical analysis of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act


Twitter, on July 28, 2020, suspended Donald Trump Jr. for 12 hours following his tweet which was “misleading and potentially harmful information” about coronavirus. The President of the United States and Trump Jr.’s father had also retweeted it, but his account was spared. [1]

Earlier in the year, the President of the USA, Mr Donald Trump wrote a two-word tweet “Revoke 230!” [2]

The spat which started in the last week of May 2020 as a political spat has now grown into a seething legal battle in the digital age, causing analysts across the political scale to fear for the future of freedom of speech and expression.

The tension, which was created on 29th May 2020 by the President of the USA took an extreme step when twitter limited the reach and the engagement of the President’s tweet. The company in its justification said that the step was taken in order to stop the violence which Trump had honoured by calling the activist as “Thugs” and said that the looting would lead to their killing. It was a violent engagement by the President towards his followers on the social media platform.

The social media platform Twitter had hidden the tweet of Mr Trump from the viewership of the general public. The company took steps in order to prevent the tweet from getting shared easily by the people. Trump and his key allies’ actions in recent times have angered free speech supporters, new and previous federal officials, and the same social media platforms that the president has come to rely on. Trump has not attacked the technology sector in this way previously, despite years of communicative backfiring and comments on the politics, so reviewers saw Trump ‘s behaviour as a serious attempt to use the Oval Office as a means of taking vengeance from the verbal comments and implicating consequences for it.

The President’s attacks are based on allegations that Twitter and other tech companies are suppressing republicans and deliberately restricting their digital presence. Such opinions are circulated widely across the globe shared among Republicans, even as internet companies insist on their political neutrality.


Section 230 says that “No user of an internet computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider”. As such, people that have or republish discourse are secured against a scope of laws that may some way or another be utilized to consider them legitimately answerable for what others state and do. Despite the fact that there are significant exemptions for certain lawbreaking and licensed innovation-based cases, CDA 230 makes a wide assurance that has permitted development and free discourse online to prosper.

Section 230 was instituted in 1996 as a feature of a law called the Communications Decency Act, which was essentially planned for controlling on the porn entertainment. The greater part of that law was struck somewhere near the courts as an illegal encroachment on free discourse, however, Section 230 remains.

The law protects any site or social media that hosts content – like news outlets’ remark segments, video administrations like YouTube and social media where people interact such as Facebook and Twitter from claims over substance posted by clients. As per this section the big social media platforms such as Facebook, Youtube etc. have been granted the right to upload their pictures as well their videos, connect to a large number of people across the globe, post reviews about anything, etc. they have been given the right to perform certain activities on this social media platform. 

For example, there are across 1 billion people who use Facebook as a social media platform in order to post their reviews, content and share it among their followers and friends, same goes for twitter, on twitter people can tweet about anything they like or dislike, it’s their freedom of speech, also on YouTube there can any number of videos posted talking about anything. So, there’s a large number of people who use this social media platform in order to post anything. Hence, it is not possible for the mediators in order to prevent anything which causes chaos from getting posted and getting it deleted immediately.

As opposed to confronting potential obligations for their clients’ activities, most would likely not have any client content whatsoever or would need to secure themselves by being effectively occupied with restrictions on what we state, what we see, and what we do on the web. To put it plainly, CDA 230 is maybe the most persuasive law to ensure the sort of development that has permitted the Internet to flourish.

Section 230 of the Communication Decency Act protects the person who has posted something from the comments that are made by the people on the post. The section does not make the person liable for any criticism or objectionable comment. This lawful security can at present hold regardless of whether a blogger knows about the questionable substance or makes publication decisions.[4]

The Communication Decency Act was passed to improve specialist organizations’ capacity to erase or in any case screen content without them turning out to be distributors. In Zeran v. America Online Inc. the Fourth Circuit held that it was Congress’ expectation in establishing Section 230’s expansive resistance to internet services since when confronted with potential obligation for each message republished by their administrations, PC specialist providers may decide to seriously confine the number and sort of messages posted. The court held that Congress reviewed the heaviness of the discourse intrigues ensnared and decided to vaccinate specialist providers to maintain a strategic distance from any such prohibitive impact [5].

The separating line in deciding if an element is a network access supplier or a web content supplier depends on publication distributor work and when something is an announcement being made by the data content supplier.

At the point when the law was composed, site proprietors stressed they could be sued on the off chance that they practised any command over what showed up on their destinations, so the law incorporates an arrangement that says that, inasmuch as locales act in “accordance with some basic honesty,” they can expel content that is hostile or in any case frightful. The law doesn’t ensure copyright infringement or specific sorts of criminal acts. Clients who post illicit substances would themselves be able to even now be held at risk in court. The innovation business and others have since a long time ago held that Section 230 is pivotal insurance, however, the rule has gotten progressively dubious as the intensity of web organizations has developed.

The Presidential Order [6]

The President of the USA, Mr Donald Trump has now gone into conflict with the social media giant – Twitter. This is the platform which has helped Trump in becoming the President of the United States but now he has been intimidating to shut down the company.

The official order that Mr Trump marked looks to strip liability insurance in specific cases for social media giants like Twitter, Google and Facebook for the substance of their platform which means they could confront lawful peril in the event that they permitted bogus and slanderous posts. The company without the protection from the liability would apparently need to be progressively forceful about policing messages that press the limits, for instance, the President.

The President needs the opportunity to post anything he loves without the organizations applying any inferences or conclusion to his messages, as Twitter did when it started adding “get the realities” messages to a portion of his bogus posts on cheating. According to the company, the President’s messages were not in reality erased and he is employing the proposed official order like a club to constrain the organization to withdraw.

As soon as this order was given, a lot of legal advisors immediately said that it may not work even as planned as he was asserting capacity to accomplish something he doesn’t have the ability to do by basically changing the understanding of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, the law passed by Congress in 1996 that spread out the guidelines of the street for online media. Legitimate specialists anticipated such a move would be tested and doubtlessly struck somewhere around the courts [7].

But Mr Trump’s organization is charming on the grounds that it assaults the extremely lawful arrangement that has permitted him such authority to distribute without any potential repercussions an entire host of incendiary, hassling and genuinely mutilated messages that a media supplier may feel constrained to bring down on the off chance that it was constrained into the job of a distributor that confronted the danger of legitimate liability instead of a wholesaler that doesn’t. [8]

Mr Trump and his partners contend that the social media organizations have demonstrated predisposition against preservationists and should be gotten control over. While they are private firms as opposed to the administration, the president and his partners contend that they have as a result become the open square imagined by the organizers when they drafted the First Amendment and accordingly ought not to be saying something regarding one side or the other.

The Political Connection

The President of the USA who has attacked Section 230 of the Communication Decency Act says that the social media companies like Facebook and Twitter have given a free hand to its users in order to post anything and have given them protection in order to run off from being held responsible.

The political party wants them to handle the social media platform so that no one posts anything against the government. They want to have the power of censoring the content of social media in their hand which the company has been rejecting this offer for a time now.

The social media companies censor their content in order to avoid any political biases because, if they allow the left-wing post on the platform and delete the post of the right-wing, it would eventually lead into biasness. There have been instances when posts regarding the right-wing have been deleted by Twitter and the left-wing posts have been allowed to stay. So the twitter CEO justified by saying that the previous workers of the company were politically left-biased but now in the present scenario there is nothing like that and the company takes the decision of censoring anything not being politically biased. Reactions are likewise over and again required at Twitter and YouTube that they are not doing what’s necessary to control extraordinary conservative perspectives on their foundation [9].

While these enormous organizations have made mistakes and mistakenly made a move against conservative voices, it is hard to express that these worldwide, multi-billion-dollar organizations have a clear bias against the political clients or parties.

In the order passed by Mr Trump, he requests the authorities to rewrite the law in such a way that it would help the government in punishing the social media giants such as Facebook and Twitter as they are politically biased according to him. The revocation can be brought only by the Congress, hence he ordered the Congress to revoke or amend the section.[10]

Tech organizations’ responses to past government dangers haven’t generally been industry-wide. The remainder of Silicon Valley was glad to let Facebook endure the worst part of reactions over information security and Google perseveres through the most sizzling antitrust spotlight. With Twitter taking the punches, the remainder of the tech world could have seen it as an opportunity to inhale simply for some time. Rather, they’re feeling snagged into a fight activated by Twitter.

Twitter is a far littler organization than Facebook and Google, making it to a lesser extent an objective for government antitrust specialists. It is generally an open stage, which keeps it separate from the discussion with law implementation over encryption. It was never the bigger stage for political publicizing that Facebook, and starting a year ago it no longer acknowledged political promotions by any means.

In spite of Trump not having the option to make amendments to the law of Section 230 without anyone else, the danger of proceeding with the order by the administration against web organizations could be sufficient.

Regardless of Mr Trump tweeting that the enactment ought to be revoked, such a move could affect his political career. The assurance by Section 230 has prevented Twitter from making a move against Mr Trump who is inclined to post, yet the online organizations may need to change that in the event that it is lawfully answerable for what is distributed on its foundation. [11]

It’s hazy if Trump’s official request could prevent web organizations from doing anything to oppose this. The White House didn’t quickly discharge the full content of the official request after Trump marked it. The request says that stages that participate in anything past “good faith” ought to be contemplated by people who post it and subsequently not qualified for Section 230’s securities. It likewise approaches the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to propose guidelines that explain what comprises “good faith;” the FTC to make a move against “enormous web stages” that “confine discourse;” and the lawyer general to work with state lawyers general to check whether those stages damage any state laws in regards to uncalled for strategic policies.

 It’s additionally hazy whether the FCC has the position to manage Section 230 or if the president can change the extent of the law with no congressional endorsement.



[2] Adam Smith, What is Section 230? How Trump’s fight with Twitter could fundamentally change the way the internet works, INDEPENDENT (May 29, 2020),

 [3] Sara Morrison, Section 230, the internet free speech law Trump wants to change, explained, VOX (May 28, 2020),

[4] Casey Newton, Everything You need to know about Section 230¸ THE VERGE, (May 28, 2020),

[5] Peter Baker, Trump’s Order on Social Media Could Harm One Person in Particular: Donald Trump, THE NEW YORK TIMES, (May 28, 2020),

[6] Taylor Hatmaker, Going to war with Twitter, Trump threatens critical social media legal protections, TECH CRUNCH, (May 28, 2020),

[7] Tony Romm, Trump’s growing feud with Twitter fuels free-speech concerns, THE WASHINGTON POST, (May 30, 2020),

[8] Steven Overly, The Trump-Twitter fight ropes in the rest of Silicon Valley, POLITICO, ( May 30, 2020),

[9] Makena Kelly, Donald Trump escalates Twitter feud by cross-posting blocked message, THE VERGE, (May 29, 2020),

[10] Gian Volpicelli, Trump’s feud with Twitter might change the internet as we know it, WIRED, (May 30, 2020),

[11] Richard Stengel, Revoking the Law that protects twitter could backfire on Trump, VANTIY FAIR (June 1, 2020),


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