US Senate Bill Would Limit What Social Media Can Moderate To Keep Liability Protection

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A new bill could limit the powers tech companies have to operate without regulations in the U.S., CNBC reported.

The new bill would reform Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. That provision was enacted in the 1990s to prevent companies from being held responsible for users’ content, and it allowed burgeoning content platforms to engage in moderation without being held in contempt for users’ posts.

Considered to be one of the primary drivers of modern internet policy, it lets titanic companies like Google and Facebook operate without the worry of lawsuits, and it allows smaller companies to avoid similar, would-be dire pitfalls of legal nature.

The new bill is called the Online Freedom and Viewpoint Diversity Act, which works to allow social media platforms to keep operating as they have been, although it limits the number of content types they could moderate in order to keep their liability exceptions.

Judiciary Committee Tech Task Force Leader Marsha Blackburn, one of the co-authors of the bill, said the committee wants to see a “revisit and not a repeal” of Section 230, according to CNBC. Her position is that the modern internet is no longer the same as when it was created. The tech companies, she posited, are not the same as they had been when the law was created.

Criticism of Section 230 has abounded in recent years as lawmakers in both major U.S. parties agree that some tech companies have become too powerful, CNBC reported.

The new Republican bill would limit the kind of content that platforms could not be prosecuted for removing, changing the phrase “otherwise objectionable” content to specific categories that are “promoting self-harm, promoting terrorism, or unlawful.”

In addition, the updates would tighten standards on tech companies for those removals, changing the language from what one “considers to be” objectionable to what one “has an objectively reasonable belief is.”

By narrowing such scopes of what can be considered objectionable, CNBC said the risk becomes that tech companies might not be able to remove “borderline” content.

It’s not the first time such content has been questioned. A proposal from July would remove legal protections from companies like Twitter and Facebook that have safeguarded these companies against lawsuits.

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