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Cruz calls on trade rep to remove tech legal shield from agreements

Cruz calls on trade rep to remove tech legal shield from agreements
© Greg Nash

Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzBiden tries to erase Trump's 'America First' on world stage Cotton, Pentagon chief tangle over diversity training in military GOP senators press Justice Department to compare protest arrests to Capitol riot MORE (R-Texas) on Friday sent a letter to the Trump administration's top trade official asking him to remove language from legal liability protections for internet companies from trade agreements.

"American trade deals should reflect settled American law, values, and customs. They should not contain provisions that are the subject of ongoing debate," Cruz wrote in a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert LighthizerBob LighthizerWhiskey, workers and friends caught in the trade dispute crossfire GOP senator warns quick vote on new NAFTA would be 'huge mistake' Pelosi casts doubt on USMCA deal in 2019 MORE.

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"With members of both the Senate and House of Representatives seriously considering whether to amend or eliminate Section 230’s grant of immunity because big tech is not living up to its end of the legislative bargain, I believe that enshrining it in our trade agreements would be a mistake.”

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act gives platforms legal immunity for content posted by third-party users while also giving them legal cover to take good-faith efforts to moderate their platforms.

Similar protections have been included in some way in both the U.S-Mexico-Canada trade agreement and a pact signed with Japan last month.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have increasingly called for amending or even gutting Section 230 as Silicon Valley has fallen out of favor with Washington.

"From Twitter locking the account of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMaher goes after Manchin: 'Most powerful Republican in the Senate' Supreme Court confounding its partisan critics Why the Democrats need Joe Manchin MORE’s campaign to YouTube demonetizing a conservative comedian’s account following pressure from the left, the examples of censorship are as disturbing as they are numerous. That is why elected officials are increasingly advocating for Section 230’s revision or repeal," Cruz wrote.

"[I]f this language remains in these trade agreements, elected officials will face a terrible dilemma: either abandon efforts to hold big tech companies accountable, or revise Section 230 and put the United States in breach."

The Hill has reached out to Lighthizer’s office for comment.

Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and Greg WaldenGregory (Greg) Paul WaldenLobbying world Give Republicans the climate credit they deserve Fox hires former GOP lawmaker Greg Walden as political consultant MORE (R-Ore.) raised concerns about Section 230 protections showing up in trade agreements during a hearing last month, also arguing that their inclusion would make it more difficult to modify the law domestically.

Tech interest groups have defended including protections in the Japan and North American deals as digital exports grow in size.