The U.S. Department of Justice is reportedly ramping up its efforts to cut legal protections for internet companies, including Big Tech.
This comes after congressional Republicans drew up a bill that would amend Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which was enacted in the 1990s to prevent companies from being held responsible for users' content. For example, internet companies are considered to be platforms, and not held to the same standards as the press.
The law has been one of the primary cornerstones of modern internet policy. It lets big companies like Google and Facebook — along with the small fry — avoid many legal disputes.
The Republicans bill would also limit the kind of content that platforms could remove, by changing the phrase "otherwise objectionable" content in the original law to content that is "promoting self-harm, promoting terrorism, or unlawful."
Similarly, the Trump administration’s proposal encourages online platforms to actively address illicit conduct and manage content on their sites in fair and consistent ways. Trump’s interest in the latter grew after social media sites policed some of his questionable statements. In May, Twitter applied a fact-checking notice to a Trump post about voter fraud, saying it was not substantiated by the facts.
Trump and GOP lawmakers have criticized Big Tech, alleging there have been biased decisions to censor social-media posts or block certain users. Democrats, including presidential candidate Joe Biden, argue that social media platforms need to do more to curb the spread of false information and hate speech.
In other words, Republicans and Democrats do not agree on what the problem is with the social media world.
However, they do agree on targeting online platforms that facilitate criminal activity, the Journal reports. The DOJ proposal does take aim at that issue and calls for amending the 1990s law — which shields internet platforms from legal liability related to users’ actions, except in very limited circumstances.
Under the Trump plan, companies could lose legal protections if they find out about unlawful activities, but don’t restrict and report it.