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Republicans working on legislation to strip Twitter of federal liability protections

Sen. Josh HawleyJoshua (Josh) David HawleyInfrastructure, energy investments urgently needed to create U.S. jobs Justice Department charges Google with illegally maintaining search monopoly Conservatives seize on New York Post story to push Section 230 reform MORE (R-Mo.) and Rep. Matt GaetzMatthew (Matt) GaetzCongressional antitrust report rips tech firms for stifling competition Loeffler tweets edited video showing Trump taking down coronavirus in wrestling match Why is Florida screaming about the pay-to-vote system it created? MORE (R-Fla.) on Wednesday separately announced they were both working on legislation to strip Twitter of federal protections that ensure the company is not held liable for what is posted on its platform. 

The lawmakers began work on legislation following Twitter’s decision to add warnings to two tweets by President TrumpDonald John TrumpObama slams Trump in Miami: 'Florida Man wouldn't even do this stuff' Trump makes his case in North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin Pence's chief of staff tests positive for COVID-19 MORE this week in which he railed against California’s decision to expand mail-in voting. Trump tweeted without evidence that mail-in voting could increase voter fraud. 

Both Hawley and Gaetz argued that Twitter’s decision to flag the tweets called its legal liability protections under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act into question. Section 230 protects social media platforms from facing lawsuits over what users post. 

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Hawley sent a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey on Wednesday questioning why the platform should be given Section 230 protections and tweeted that he would soon introduce legislation to end “government giveaways” under the legal shield.

“If @Twitter wants to editorialize & comment on users’ posts, it should be divested of its special status under federal law (Section 230) & forced to play by same rules as all other publishers,” Hawley tweeted. “Fair is fair.”

Hawley questioned Dorsey on whether Twitter’s “fact check” was part of an effort to “target the President for political reasons” and raised concerns that Twitter fact-checkers were biased against Trump. 

Gaetz also announced the action on Wednesday against Twitter, tweeting that he was “working on legislation to revise Section 230 so we don't have election interference from companies like Twitter.”

Gaetz said on his “Hot Takes” podcast that while he is not “in favor of a special attack on Twitter,” he does think Section 230 protections for the company should be reevaluated.

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“I am currently working with my Republican colleagues on the [House] Judiciary Committee to draft legislation to say that if you are going to opine to the truth or falsity of that which is put on your platform for the sake of its viewers, you do not get the protections of Section 230. You are not a platform. You are doing something else. You are editorializing,” Gaetz said. 

Twitter declined to comment on this story. 

Section 230, which is viewed by supporters as one of the most important legal shields protecting free speech online, has come under fire in recent months. Attorney General William BarrBill BarrPolice accountability board concludes that Seattle police officers used excessive force during encounters with protesters Trump hasn't asked Barr to open investigation into Bidens, McEnany says Seattle, Portland, NYC sue Trump administration over threat to pull federal money MORE raised concerns about the provision in February, citing the potential for Section 230 to enable child exploitation online. 

A coalition of lawmakers introduced controversial legislation in March that would hold tech companies accountable for images and videos of child abuse posted to their platforms but faced strong pushback from tech advocates and other Section 230 supporters.