Democrat senators introduced a bill that could make Big Tech companies, such as Twitter, Facebook, and Google, liable for harmful content on their platforms that results in real-world violence, such as the events of January 6.
The bill might not get the support of Republicans, who, during the previous administration, proposed several revisions of Section 230 to prevent Big Tech platforms from censoring conservative voices.
On Friday, Democrat Senators Mazie Hirono, Mark Warner, and Amy Klobuchar, representing Hawaii, Virginia, and Minnesota respectively, introduced a new bill dubbed the SAFE TECH act.
We obtained a copy of the bill for you here.
If it passes, the legislation will significantly reduce Section 230 protections to allow users to sue tech platforms for any content they deem to be discrimination, harassment, or other forms of abuse.
Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, introduced in 1996, protects tech platforms from liability over users’ content. Therefore, it is these platforms cannot be legally sued for the harm caused by content posted by users, even if it results in real-world consequences. Democrats want to change that – a move that would result in more censorship online as Big Tech platforms would then have to scrabble to reduce content that could be construed as “harmful” or risk being sued.
“We need to be asking more from big tech companies, not less. How they operate has a real-life effect on the safety and civil rights of Americans and people around the world, as well as our democracy. Holding these platforms accountable for ads and content that can lead to real-world harm is critical, and this legislation will do just that,” Senator Klobuchar said.
Senator Warner noted that times have changed since Section 230 was introduced, claiming that tech platforms do not do enough to address harmful content, despite the repeated misuse of the services.
“When Section 230 was enacted in 1996, the Internet looked very different than it does today. A law meant to encourage service providers to develop tools and policies to support effective moderation has instead conferred sweeping immunity on online providers even when they do nothing to address foreseeable, obvious, and repeated misuse of their products and services to cause harm,” Warner said.
The SAFE TECH Act would also remove Section 230’s protections on ads and other forms of paid content on platforms. In other words, companies such as Facebook and Google, which get a huge part of their earnings from ads, will be forced to moderate ads to make sure they could not be interpreted as “harmful” content.
The SAFE TECH Act is the first bill targeting Section 230 by Democrats since they took control of the White House, Senate, and House. It follows the events of January 6, which according to the left, could have been avoided if social media platforms took more stern action against harmful content.
Social media sites such as Twitter and Parler, a free-speech alternative favored by conservatives, were accused of playing a role in the events of January 6. Parler was later forced offline after Amazon’s web hosting services removed it from its servers, claiming it did not moderate posts that encouraged the violence.
The alt-tech platform’s troubles are not over yet. The chair of the House Oversight Committee, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), asked the FBI to investigate Parler for its role in the violence.
Now that the Democrats control the government, most of the previous administration’s Section 230 revisions are not likely to be pursued. Republicans wanted to revise Section 230 to punish tech platforms for biased content moderation. However, Democrats are more focused on punishing big tech platforms for not doing enough to address harmful content and misinformation.