Three Democratic US senators have introduced the SAFE TECH Act, intending to make social media companies more accountable for enabling cyber-stalking, targeted harassment, and discrimination on their platforms.
The bill takes aim at Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a key part of the legislation that frees technology companies from liability over the content posted by users.
The latest efforts will make US social media companies like Google, Twitter and Facebook restricted from shielding themselves using Section 230 in cases that violate federal and state laws relating to civil rights, antitrust, cyber-stalking, human rights.
In the aftermath of the January 6 storming of the US Capitol in Washington, many lawmakers have been researching ways to make big tech companies accountable for the role they played in the spread of disinformation before the riot and about policing content on their platforms.
The demand for changing the law got increased after platforms such as Twitter and Facebook started labeling former President Donald Trump’s posts about the elections and then after the Capitol attack blocked Trump’s account, citing a risk of further incitement of violence.
The chief executives of Google, Twitter and Facebook have previously stated the law is important for free expression on the internet. They said Section 230 gives them the tools to strike a balance between preserving free speech and moderating content, even as they appeared open to suggestions the law needs moderate changes.
“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.”
The bill from the three Democrats makes it clear that Section 230, which was enacted in 1996 as part of a law called the Communications Decency Act does not apply to ads or other paid content, does not weaken the enforcement of civil rights laws, and does not bar wrongful-death actions.
Several other pieces of legislation are also aiming at changing the law doing the rounds, including Republican Senators Roger Wicker and Lindsey Graham. There is another one from Democratic Senator Joe Manchin and a bipartisan bill from Democrat Brian Schatz and Republican John Thune.