Republican Senator Josh Hawley from Missouri has introduced a bill that would remove the immunity companies like Facebook, Twitter and Google receive for offensive and illegal content that users post, according to a report by CNBC.
Tech companies currently have immunity from content users post under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996. Under the new proposed bill, companies will be able to earn their immunity if they complete audits every two years to make sure the content being produced is “politically neutral.”
Politicians on both sides of the aisle have warmed up to the idea as large tech companies struggle with stopping illegal, offensive or violent content, including political propaganda from other countries attempting to influence American elections.
The bill would change the ways that these companies censor content, which is currently done by an algorithm and a scan by human eyes after it’s been posted. The new method would mean it would have to be vetted beforehand — and it could potentially limit or create a backlog of content, something the tech companies aren’t used to.
“With Section 230, tech companies get a sweetheart deal that no other industry enjoys: complete exemption from traditional publisher liability in exchange for providing a forum free of political censorship,” Hawley said. “Unfortunately, and unsurprisingly, big tech has failed to hold up its end of the bargain.”
The bill is called the Ending Support for Internet Censorship Act, and would only affect companies with more than 30 million active monthly users in the U.S., 300 million active monthlies worldwide, or upwards of $500 million in global revenue. This would mean that small- or medium-sized companies would be exempt.
To get immunity back, the companies would have to show the Federal Trade Commission that their practices allow for “politically neutral” content, and the immunity certification would have to have a super-majority vote by the organization. It would need to be reapplied for every two years.
“This legislation simply states that if the tech giants want to keep their government-granted immunity, they must bring transparency and accountability to their editorial processes and prove that they don’t discriminate,” Hawley said.