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 CruzHillicon Valley: Twitter flags Trump tweet for 'glorifying violence' | Cruz calls for criminal investigation into Twitter over alleged sanctions violations | Senators urge FTC to investigate TikTok child privacy issues Cruz calls for criminal investigation into Twitter over alleged Iranian sanction violations On The Money: Trump signs order targeting social media firms' legal protections | 2M more Americans file new jobless claims, pushing total past 40M | White House to forgo summer economic forecast amid COVID-19, breaking precedent 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 LighthizerRobert (Bob) Emmet LighthizerGOP senator warns quick vote on new NAFTA would be 'huge mistake' Pelosi casts doubt on USMCA deal in 2019 Pelosi sounds hopeful on new NAFTA deal despite tensions with White House 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 McConnellSchumer to GOP: Cancel 'conspiracy hearings' on origins of Russia probe Overnight Health Care: Trump says US 'terminating' relationship with WHO | Cuomo: NYC on track to start reopening week of June 8 | COVID-19 workplace complaints surge 10 things to know today about coronavirus 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 WaldenBipartisan senators call for investigation of TikTok's child privacy policies Hillicon Valley: Facebook permanently shifting thousands of jobs to remote work | Congressional action on driverless cars hits speed bump during pandemic | Republicans grill TikTok over data privacy concerns Top Commerce Republicans grill TikTok parent company 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.