Trump’s TRUTH Social launched Monday, and within hours it topped the app store charts. Despite some initial technical difficulties, perhaps having to do with the sheer number of folks clamoring to join, the future seems bright for the new app. After a year of Trump being off social media altogether, except for when reporters tweet out images of his press releases, TRUTH Social will put him back in the social media space—if not in the exact same position, since TRUTH Social and Twitter obviously have very different audiences.
That is partly the result of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which shields online platforms for legal liability related to content posted by others online, but also from liability associated with content moderation policies, removal of content from platforms, and more. It is really an extension of the First Amendment, which already protects all of these actions (keeping content up or taking it down, or prioritizing it or deprioritizing it is all an exercise in freedom of speech and freedom of association, protected by the First Amendment). However, Section 230 stops lawsuits that would otherwise prove costly and jam up the courts before being tossed on First Amendment grounds from taking off.
What’s interesting here is while TRUTH Social will likely be very different from Twitter, the platform will rely heavily on 230 to deliver on its promise. TRUTH Social CEO Devin Nunes has explained, “This is a quality, user-friendly product. We want this to be something that you’re not worried about your kids or your grandparents being on.” Presumably, this means that TRUTH Social will moderate and remove offensive content. Without Section 230, this ability would be greatly hampered if not entirely eliminated.
This brings us to Georgia, where last week SB 393, the Common Carrier Non-Discrimination Act, was approved by the Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee. SB 393 is one of a rash of bills currently making their way through state legislatures across the country which aim to destroy the legal shield Section 230 provides. These bills attempt to prohibit social media platforms from removing posts from their site, no matter how harmful or obscene they may be. The widespread passage of bills like this—including Georgia’s own version—could mean major trouble for President Trump’s new app.
If even upheld as legal (dubious given the First Amendment), SB 393 would make Nunes’ pledge of providing a family-friendly platform nearly impossible to deliver on. Under this law, the left would be able to argue that any removal of content on Trump’s new platform would constitute a violation. That means that posts bashing any or all of Trump, conservatives, David Perdue, Herschel Walker, Marjorie Taylor Greene, or other likely fan favorites of TRUTH Social users could be forced to be kept up by the platform. In addition, not-family-friendly pornographic material, which some anti-Trump spammers might post en masse in an effort to crash the site, could be required to be kept up. SB 393, if upheld, would basically make it impossible for TRUTH Social to be what its leadership has promised it will be, not least because it and other bills like it would enable trolls and those posting in direct contravention of the platform’s stated policies to argue that either their content stays up, or TRUTH Social owes them damages.
The past several years and the continued deplatforming of conservative voices online by social media giants like Twitter and Facebook have made the dismantling of Section 230 seem incredibly appealing, especially to major fans of Trump and other figures in his general political “lane.” However, when we take a closer look at exactly what that could mean for TRUTH Social—Trump’s own social media baby— it becomes painfully clear that Trump supporters need 230 to remain intact. Efforts like SB 393 should be stopped cold, or it could be Republicans advocating for scrapping 230 who end up paying the price.