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Monday, November 23, 2020

Senate Republicans introduce bill aimed at modifying Section 230

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Sen. Roger Wicker was among a trio of Republican senators introducing legislation to modify online liability protections. 

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Alex Wong/Getty Images/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Three Republican senators on Tuesday introduced legislation aimed at modifying a federal law that shields online platforms from liability for material posted by their users.

Introduced by Sens. Roger Wicker (Miss.), Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.), the Online Freedom and Viewpoint Diversity Act would modify Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act by conditioning that protection from liability would depend on content moderation being on an “objectively reasonable belief” standard.

It proposes to replace the original act’s term “otherwise objectionable” with more specific terms such as “promoting terrorism,” “unlawful” content, and content that promotes “self-harm.” It would also clarify the definition of “information content provider.”

Republicans have long accused Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms of abusing the legal protection to censor conservative views. President Donald Trump has championed that position, signing an executive order last month that requests a government review of Section 230.

“For too long, social media platforms have hidden behind Section 230 protections to censor content that deviates from their beliefs,” Wicker said in a statement.

Section 230 has drawn sharp criticism from the left, as well. Democrats have attacked the statute for allowing Silicon Valley to deflect responsibility for disinformation and deceptive content that flourishes on their sites. 

The tech industry has warned that revisions to Section 230, especially those proposed by the Trump administration, could restrict free speech online. The industry argues that without the legal protections, tech platforms would take a stricter approach to moderating content to reduce legal liability.

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