Schakowsky to introduce bill to limit reach of tech liability shield

Greg Nash

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) said Wednesday she will be introducing a bill in January that aims to hold tech companies accountable for their terms of service and would limit the reach of the liability shield that protects tech companies over third-party content posted on their sites.

Schakowsky said the Online Consumer Protection Act she plans to introduce would require platforms disclose to consumers in “easily understood terms” policies regarding health misinformation, incitement of violence, election misinformation and wildlife trafficking. 

If platforms fail to enforce these policies, then Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which grants tech companies a liability shield, would not protect them from liability related to these new obligations, she said.

Schakowsky announced she would be introducing the bill at a multinational summit on disinformation co-hosted by Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.). 

She underscored the need for such reform based on rampant election misinformation that spread across social media platforms around this year’s presidential election.

“Some conventional wisdom might suggest that platforms performed better in 2020, but only if compared to their absolutely dreadful performance in 2016 can anyone keep from laughing at this ridiculous assertion,” Schakowsky said.

Democrats have widely criticized social media giants for not taking enough action to clamp down on misinformation and hate speech on their platforms, while Republicans have also taken aim at social media platforms and blasted Section 230, accusing tech companies of censorship and anti-conservative bias.

Section 230 has come under increased scrutiny since President Trump targeted it in May with an executive order, and he has since repeated calls to repeal the law as social media platforms continued to label some of his posts. 

President-elect Joe Biden has also said Section 230 should be revoked “immediately,” though for vastly different reasons than Trump. Biden, like his Democratic colleagues, has argued tech companies have not done enough to combat misinformation on their platforms. The president-elect has not detailed plans regarding how he would handle Section 230. 

Trump’s executive order targeting the law, which directed the National Telecommunications and Information Agency to submit a request to the FCC to reconsider the law, was roundly criticized by tech groups and legal experts who noted that only Congress has the authority to amend laws.

Tags David Cicilline Disinformation Donald Trump Jan Schakowsky Joe Biden misinformation Section 230
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