Technology

GOP lawmaker introduces bill targeting tech liability protections

Greg Nash

Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) introduced legislation Thursday targeting a decades-old law that gives internet platforms legal liability protection from content posted by third parties.

The bill — the Stop Shielding Culpable Platforms Act — would yank those protections from companies that “knowingly peddle unlawful material” such as child pornography on their sites.

The proposal would overhaul a portion of the 1996 Communications Decency Act known as Section 230 that has drawn the ire of Republicans, including former President Trump.

“It’s past time for Congress to roll back Section 230’s most egregious and expansive special legal protections,” Banks, head of the influential Republican Study Committee, said in a statement Thursday.

The legislation is co-sponsored by eight other Republicans.

Some experts have argued that legislation along these lines could end up harming efforts by platforms to remove illicit content like child sexual abuse material. Section 230 gives platforms liability protection for good faith efforts at content moderation, but without that protection, companies could face lawsuits anytime they try to remove images or videos, disincentivizing existing efforts.

The legal protections for tech companies were thrust into the spotlight last year when former President Trump targeted them in an executive order and pushed for their repeal in a separate defense policy bill.

That effort, which came after Twitter labeled some of Trump’s posts that contained misinformation about mail-in voting, sputtered once President Biden took office.

However, efforts in Congress to either reform or scrap the law persist.

Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) introduced a bill last month which would carve out Section 230 protections to allow users who face cyberstalking, targeted harassment and discrimination to seek legal action against the platforms.

Sens. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and John Thune (R-N.D.) reintroduced the PACT Act this week, which would require greater transparency around content moderation decisions and potentially pull Section 230 protections from platforms that fail to pull down illegal content after being notified by courts.

Tags Amy Klobuchar Brian Schatz Clarence Thomas Donald Trump Joe Biden John Thune Mark Warner Section 230 Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act

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