US senators propose limiting social media platforms liability shield

Platform News: U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (Democrat) talks about Big Tech

Three senators have introduced a bill that would limit Section 230, an existing law that shields online platforms from liability over the content posted by users, and make the companies more accountable when posts result in harm.

Called the ‘SAFE TECH Act’, the proposed legislation would mark the latest effort to make US social networking companies like Google, Twitter and Facebook more accountable for “enabling cyber-stalking, targeted harassment, and discrimination on their platforms,” Senators Mark Warner, Mazie Hirono and Amy Klobuchar said in a statement.

In the aftermath of the storming of the US Capitol building in Washington DC on January the 6th, a number of lawmakers have been studying ways to hold ‘Big Tech’ more accountable for the role they both had and potentially will play in the spread of disinformation before the riot and about policing content on their platforms.

The efforts will always be contentious, with many commentators on both sides of the debate wondering about how to define ‘disinformation’.

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A separate attempt by several GOP lawmakers has been aimed at completely scraping the law over decisions by tech platforms to moderate content. Former President Donald J Trump repeatedly pushed for the legal protection to be stripped away over what he alleged was censorship against conservatives and stifling of debate by activists within ‘Big Tech’.

The calls for changing the law grew louder after platforms such as Twitter and Facebook started labelling Trump’s posts about the elections and then after the post election attack on the Capitol building blocked the then President Trump’s account, citing a risk of incitement of violence by his supporters, who believe that the general election was stolen from the Trump. Rightly/wrongly, it is worth remembering that the organisations blocked the duly elected Head of State from his primary channels of communication to the country.

The CEO’s of Alphabet, the parent company of Google, Facebook and Twitter have stated previously said Section 230 gives them the tools to strike a balance between preserving free speech and moderating content, even as they appeared open to suggestions the law needs moderate changes. Opponents suggest it gives them mechanisms to control the Overton window.

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The bill from the three Democrat senators would make it clear that Section 230 – which is within the Communications Decency Act of 1996 does not apply to advertising, or other paid content, does not impair the enforcement of civil rights laws, and does not bar wrongful-death actions.

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

“Holding these platforms accountable for ads and content that can lead to real-world harm is critical, and this legislation will do just that,” she said.

There are several other pieces of legislation aimed at changing the law doing the rounds, including one from GOP Senators Roger Wicker and Lindsey Graham. There is another one from Democratic Senator Joe Manchin and a bipartisan bill from DNC Brian Schatz and GOP John Thune.

The team at Platform Executive hope you have enjoyed this news article. Translation from English to other languages via Google Cloud Translation. Initial reporting via our official content partners at Thomson Reuters. Reporting by Nandita Bose and Chris Sanders. Editing by Jonathan Oatis. Commentary by Rob Phillips.

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