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Legislation Would End Content-Liability Protections for Big Tech Firms

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Two bipartisan lawmakers have drafted legislation to retire a 28-year-old provision that shields Big Tech companies from liability for the material that people post on their platforms.

Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) and Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) co-authored a Wall Street Journal Op-Ed on May 12, arguing that Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act “is now poisoning the healthy online ecosystem it once fostered. Big Tech companies are exploiting the law to shield them from any responsibility or accountability as their platforms inflict immense harm on Americans, especially children.”

Under the Section 230 protections enacted in the early days of the internet, before many of today’s Big Tech firms existed, a social media company, for example, “can’t easily be held responsible if it promotes, amplifies or makes money from posts selling drugs, illegal weapons or other illicit content,” they wrote.

The bill seeks to “empower parents, children and others who have been exploited by criminals, drug dealers and others on social-media platforms.”

If passed, then the legislation would require Big Tech companies to work with Congress for 18 months to “evaluate and enact a new legal framework that will allow for free speech and innovation while also encouraging these companies to be good stewards of their platforms,” the lawmakers wrote. Otherwise, Big Tech companies would lose Section 230 protections entirely.

As Engadget reports, Meta and Google have repeatedly used Section 230 to have lawsuits against them dismissed. The proposed bill would render Section 230 ineffective after Dec. 31, 2025. Another bipartisan group has introduced legislation which seeks to hold artificial intelligence companies liable for harmful content, such as deepfake images or AI audio created to ruin someone’s reputation.

For further reading on PRsay:
Section 230 Reform Is in the News Again: What Does It Mean for Communicators?

What You Need to Know About Section 230, and the Potential Changes on the Horizon

[Photo credit: prima91]

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