Technology

Biden’s Commerce secretary pick says Section 230 ‘needs some reform’

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President Biden’s nominee to serve as the secretary of Commerce, Gina Raimondo, said Tuesday a controversial law that provides tech companies a legal liability shield from third-party content posted on their platforms needs to be reformed.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), a fierce proponent of reforming Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, asked Raimondo about reforming the landmark law during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee.

“I would agree that we need some reform in Section 230 and I would look forward to working with you on that,” said Raimondo, who is currently the Democratic governor of Rhode Island.

Raimondo said if confirmed she would use the resources at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), an agency within the Commerce Department, to convene stakeholders and discuss with members of Congress potential reforms to Section 230.

Biden said during his presidential campaign that Section 230 should be revoked, but he has largely not detailed plans moving forward regarding tech regulation.

Biden’s reasoning behind revoking Section 230 differs from his predecessor. 

Whereas former President Trump and Republicans accused the law of being used to censor conservative content online, Biden and Democrats have said tech companies are not doing enough to combat the spread of hate speech and misinformation on their platforms. The concerns have mounted since the riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6 following reports that social media platforms were used to help organize and amplify rioters’ demands.

Raimondo voiced similar concerns during her confirmation hearing, noting that she has seen the impact of misinformation narratives in Rhode Island. 

“I think platform accountability is important. I’ve seen in my own state that misinformation hurts people — misinformation posted anonymously or otherwise can hurt people,” Raimondo said. “So we have to hold these companies accountable, we need platform accountability, but of course that reform would have to be balanced with the fact that these businesses rely upon user-generated content for their innovation and created many thousands of jobs.” 

Trump had sought to repeal Section 230 through an executive order calling for the NTIA to submit a request to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for the law to be reconsidered. His executive order was issued shortly after Twitter fact-checked some of his posts about mail-in voting. Twitter has since permanently banned Trump from their platform.

Former FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said earlier this month he would not move forward with Trump’s order targeting Section 230 due to time constraints.

Tags Ajit Pai Communications Decency Act Donald Trump federal communications commission (fcc) Gina Raimondo national telecommunications Ron Johnson Section 230
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