The Department of Justice is prepping legislation to roll back protections for big tech companies and make them more accountable for content posted on their sites.
The DOJ is expected to introduce a bill to Congress as soon as Wednesday targeting tech companies and social media platforms’ protections under Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Section 230 protects a wide variety of web services, platforms, and content providers from liability for outside content that passes through their servers. The law, passed in the early days of the internet, is a key legal protection for large social media platforms and internet search engines. Any change in the law’s protections could drastically affect the way those companies operate.
To a lesser extent, the law also protects media outlets from liability for comments posted on their articles. Section 230 also provides a wide degree of latitude to all internet companies to police content posted on their sites.
President Trump signed an executive order last month ordering the Federal Communications Commission to review the law amid allegations from conservatives that powerful tech companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Google are unfairly censoring conservative viewpoints under the guise of combating racism, sexism, and other forms of so-called hate speech.
A small number of web platforms “have had unchecked power to censor, restrict, edit, shape, hide, alter virtually any form of communication between private citizens or large public audiences,” Trump said while signing the order. “There’s no precedent in American history for so small a number of corporations to control so large a sphere of human interaction, and that includes individual people controlling vast amounts of territory, and we can’t allow that to happen, especially when they go about doing what they’re doing, because they’re doing things incorrectly.”
On Tuesday, GOP lawmakers, conservative pundits, and others accused Google of overstepping its bounds and flagrant hypocrisy for threatening to cut off advertising revenue to the conservative news and opinion site The Federalist. The tech giant said the conservative website violated Google’s rules against “inappropriate behavior” in the media site’s comment section. The Federalist responded by deleting its comment section entirely.
GOP Sen. Ted Cruz responded to Google’s threat in a letter sent to Google CEO Sundar Pichai.
“Google’s decision to target The Federalist is transparently politically motivated. Numerous ‘progressive’ media outlets allow comments, including, Huffington Post, Mother Jones, Daily Kos, Talking Points Memo, Wonkette, Slate, Jezebel, The Root, Salon, The Intercept, The Young Turks, and many others,” Cruz wrote. “I don’t know what the objectionable comments were that individual users might have posted on The Federalist, but any objective review would no doubt demonstrate at least as many profane, racist, or indefensible user comments on these other sites that would equally violate Google’s alleged standards.”
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