Senators Offer Bill to Limit Liability Shield for Social Media Firms

Senators Offer Bill to Limit Liability Shield for Social Media Firms

2021-02-08 06:00:17

Three Democratic US senators have introduced a bill that would restrict section 230, a law that protects online companies from liability for user-posted content, and makes companies more accountable when posts cause harm.

The legislation, dubbed the SAFE TECH Act, would mark the latest effort to make American social media companies such as Google, Twitter Inc and Facebook Inc of Alphabet Inc more responsible for enabling cyberstalking, targeted harassment and discrimination against them. platforms, 'Senators Mark Warner, Mazie Hirono and Amy Klobuchar said in a statement.

In the wake of the United States Capitol storming in Washington on Jan. 6, many lawmakers have explored ways to hold Big Tech more accountable for the role they played in spreading pre-riot disinformation and controlling content on their platforms .

Several Republican lawmakers have also separately pushed for the scrapping of the law entirely over decisions made by tech platforms to moderate content. Republican former President Donald Trump repeatedly insisted that legal protections be abolished because of what he claimed to be censorship against conservatives.

Calls for law change grew louder after platforms such as Twitter and Facebook began tagging Trump's posts about the election and then, following the Capitol attack, blocked Trump's account, citing the risk of further incitement to violence.

The top executives of Google, Twitter and Facebook have previously said that the law is crucial to free speech on the Internet. They said section 230 gives them the tools to strike a balance between preserving free speech and moderating content, even if they were open to suggestions, the law needs moderate changes.

The bill of the three Democrats would make it clear that section 230 – which was passed in 1996 as part of a law called the Communications Decency Act – does not apply to advertising or other paid content, does not affect the enforcement of civil rights laws, and does not exclude actions for torture of death.

“We need to ask more from big tech companies, not less,” said Senator Klobuchar.

“It is critical to hold these platforms accountable for ads and content that could cause actual harm, and this legislation will do just that,” she said.

There are several other pieces of legislation aiming to change the law going around, including Republican Senators Roger Wicker and Lindsey Graham. There is another one from Democratic Senator Joe Manchin and a bipartisan law from Democrat Brian Schatz and Republican John Thune.

(Reporting by Nandita Bose and Chris Sanders; edited by Jonathan Oatis)

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