Bipartisan Bill Aims to Bring Down Section 230 Protections for Tech Firms

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Key Takeaways

  • Section 230 "has outlived its usefulness," according to legislators.
  • It currently provides crucial protections for big tech firms against liability for content posted by users.
  • Previous attempts to sunset the act have failed.

United States lawmakers from both sides of the political divide are striving to end Section 230 protections of the Communications Decency Act.

With concerns the legislation is no longer fit for purpose, a bipartisan draft bill wants to render Section 230 obsolete by the end of 2025. The action has been introduced by by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers, supported by ranking member Frank Pallone, Jr. 

In an op-ed feature for The Wall Street Journal, the duo acknowledged that Section 230 has served the internet well over the years but believed it was increasingly being used in self-interest by technology companies to “shield them from any responsibility or accountability as their platforms inflict immense harm on Americans, especially children.”

What is Section 230?

Section 230 was sealed by Congress back in 1996 as part of the Communications Decency Act and ever since, it has been a bulwark for protecting online platforms against legal action. 

In recent years, as debates have swirled around social media, user-generated content, harmful material, and the evolution of AI, Section 230 has come under increasing scrutiny. 

The legislation can be summarized by a 26-world section as follows:

“No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.” 

However, who is a publisher of content and who is only a distributor? 

This is a complex argument, which could introduce some important responsibility on big tech but it could also open the floodgates to bad-faith litigation.

Politicians have previously tried to shut down Section 230 without success, but McMorris Rodgers and Pallone Jr. claimed this  was mainly because the tech industry failed to provide meaningful cooperation. 

The fresh bill would compel tech firms to work with legislators for 18 months to construct and deliver a new Section 230 framework. It pledges a “safe, healthy place for good” for both users and publishers while warning of the loss of important protections altogether if there is resistance.