The CEOs of Facebook, Alphabet, and Twitter will appear before the Senate Commerce Committee tomorrow to speak about Section 230 (via Reuters).
Under Section 230, a provision of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, tech companies aren’t held liable for content that their users post and lets “lawful but objectionable posts” be removed.
Both Democrats and Republicans have been concerned with the way these companies moderate their user content and will discuss reforming the law and other issues regarding consumer privacy. FCC Chairman Ajit Apai notes: “We are not talking about imposing regulations on social media companies. We are talking about interpreting an immunity provision.”
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg:
Section 230 made it possible for every major internet service to be built. Congress should update the law to make sure it’s working as intended. We support the ideas around transparency and industry collaboration that are being discussed in some of the current bipartisan proposals.
EARN IT Act
At the heart of the conversations surrounding Section 230 is the EARN IT Act, a bill that would limit the protections of Section 230 that tech companies receive. Its goal is to combat online child sexual exploitation but it could have other effects as the ACLU points out:
By requiring platforms to broadly monitor and censor speech to which children might be exposed online, the EARN IT Act’s commission may recommend best practices that disproportionately censor, among other things: sex education materials, online support systems and communities for youth who are transgender or non-binary […]
The special commission that the bill creates, led by Attorney General William Barr, would create a set of “best practices” that these companies would be encouraged to follow, but it could mean the introduction of backdoors into encryption algorithms, thus weakening security for all users.