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Internet companies urge FCC to reject Trump bid to impose new social media regulations

U.S. President Trump visits site of protests against police brutality and racial injustice in Kenosha, Wisconsin

By David Shepardson and Nandita Bose

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A group representing major internet companies including Facebook Inc, Inc and Alphabet Inc's Google on Wednesday urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reject a Trump administration bid to narrow the ability of social media companies to remove objectionable content.

The Internet Association said in a filing that the Trump administration petition filed in August seeking new rules "is misguided, lacks grounding in law, and poses serious public policy concerns." It said new FCC rules could result in a loss of legal protections for removing "fraudulent schemes, scams, dangerous content promoting suicide or eating disorders to teens, and a wide range of other types of 'otherwise objectionable' content."

The Consumer Technology Association, which represents companies like IBM, Microsoft and Sony, also blasted the effort, saying it would "make compliance all but impossible."

"It is shocking that our own government would seek to undermine a law that has led to unprecedented American innovation, with massive benefits for our consumers and economy," said Michael Petricone, a CTA official.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai dismissed calls from the two Democrats on the agency's five-member commission to reject the petition without public comment. He has declined comment on the petition's merits.

President Donald Trump directed the Commerce Department to file the petition after Twitter Inc in May warned readers to fact-check his posts about unsubstantiated claims of fraud in mail-in voting.

Facebook , Twitter and Google's YouTube earlier pulled a post by Trump for violating their COVID-19 misinformation policies.

The petition asks the FCC to limit protections for social media companies under Section 230, a provision of the 1996 Communications Decency Act that shields social media companies from liability for content posted by their users and allows them to remove lawful but objectionable posts.

AT&T Inc did not take a position on what action the FCC should take but said in comments "we support the growing consensus that online platforms should be more accountable for, and more transparent about, the decisions that fundamentally shape American society today."

Trump, a Republican running for re-election, has repeatedly expressed anger at social media companies.

In August, the White House abruptly pulled the nomination of FCC Commissioner Mike O'Rielly for a new term just days after he questioned the effort to regulate social media companies' editorial decisions.

(Reporting by David Shepardson and Nandita Bose; Editing by Leslie Adler and Alistair Bell)