Home Tech Tech’s Legal Shield Appears Likely to Survive as Congress Focuses on Details

Tech’s Legal Shield Appears Likely to Survive as Congress Focuses on Details



The lawmakers’ focus on targeted changes to the law is a familiar one. In 2018, Congress passed a law that removed Section 230 protections when platforms knowingly facilitated sex trafficking.

But Mr. Trump was focused on repealing the law. In his final weeks in the White House, he pushed congressional Republicans to end the protections in an unrelated defense funding bill. His supporters and allies may not be satisfied by the targeted changes proposed by the Democrats who now control both the Senate and the House.

The White House did not immediately offer a comment on the issue on Monday. But a December op-ed that was co-written by Bruce Reed, Mr. Biden’s deputy chief of staff, said that “platforms should be held accountable for any content that generates revenue.” The op-ed also said that while carving out specific types of content was a start, lawmakers would do well to consider giving platforms the entire liability shield only on the condition that they properly moderate content.

Supporters of Section 230 say even small changes could hurt vulnerable people. They point to the 2018 anti-trafficking bill, which sex workers say made it harder to vet potential clients online after some of the services they used closed, fearing new legal liability. Instead, sex workers have said they must now risk meeting with clients in person without using the internet to ascertain their intentions at a safe distance.

Senator Ron Wyden, the Oregon Democrat who co-wrote Section 230 while in the House, said measures meant to address disinformation on the right could be used against other political groups in the future.

“If you remember 9/11, and you had all these knee-jerk reactions to those horrible tragedies,” he said. “I think it would be a huge mistake to use the disgusting, nauseating attacks on the Capitol as a vehicle to suppress free speech.”

Industry officials say carve-outs to the law could nonetheless be extremely difficult to carry out.

“I appreciate that some policymakers are trying to be more specific about what they don’t like online,” said Kate Tummarello, the executive director of Engine, an advocacy group for small companies. “But there’s no universe in which platforms, especially small platforms, will automatically know when and where illegal speech is happening on their site.”

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