WASHINGTON, D.C. – Three Senate Democrats have proposed a bill that would reform Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act that would potentially diminish – or remove altogether liability protections that currently cover social media giants such as Twitter and Facebook from content their users post.
Senators Mark Warner (D-Virginia), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) have introduced the Safeguarding Against Fraud, Exploitation, Threats, Extremism and Consumer Harms Act (SAFE TECH Act), which if passed would hold social media websites “accountable” for “damaging content.”
The bill would only modify Section 230, as opposed to repealing it completely, as some Republican lawmakers have proposed doing.
The internet is a very different place today than when Section 230 was original signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1996, hence the need for the SAFE TECH Act, Senator Warner said.
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“Section 230 has provided a ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ card to the largest platform companies even as their sites are used by scam artists, harassers and violent extremists to cause damage and injury,” Warner said in a statement Friday. “This bill doesn’t interfere with free speech — it’s about allowing these platforms to finally be held accountable for harmful, often criminal behavior enabled by their platforms to which they have turned a blind eye for too long.”
The reforms to Section 230 would not automatically make social media platforms liable for any damage caused by user-posted content; instead, it would allow victims to being legal cases without any hurdles put in place by the U.S. government, as is the case now. The bill would also reinforce that Section 230 is not a barrier for enforcement of laws governing cyberstalking and harassment.
Currently, Section 230 grants social media companies an extreme layer of protection against liability, essentially declaring that they cannot be considered “the publisher or speaker” of third-party content.