House Republicans outline principles for reforming Section 230

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) throughout a House Energy and Commerce Environment and Climate Change Subcommittee listening to on Capitol Hill on April 2, 2019 in Washington, DC.

Zach Gibson | Getty Images

House Republicans are gearing as much as take goal on the authorized defend that protects tech platforms from legal responsibility for the content material customers submit.

On Thursday, Republican workers for the House Energy and Commerce Committee despatched a memo suggesting a number of ideas for reforming Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a 1996 regulation that protects tech platforms from legal responsibility for customers’ posts and for their very own moderation practices.

Those ideas embrace:

  • Limiting the proper of tech firms to exclude customers primarily based on their viewpoints or political affiliations
  • Requiring “reasonable moderation practices” to deal with harms like unlawful drug gross sales and little one exploitation
  • Narrowing protected moderation to particular sorts of speech not protected by the First Amendment
  • Removing safety for discriminatory moderation selections primarily based on viewpoints.

Underscoring all the ideas are three predominant principles: Protecting free speech, balancing pursuits of small companies to guard competitors, and selling American management in tech.

The memo mentioned proposed laws would solely goal “Big Tech companies with an annual revenue of $1 billion,” suggesting it’ll concentrate on giants like Amazon, Apple, Google and Facebook.

The E&C Republican workers despatched the memo to the workers of particular person Republican members of the committee, in addition to different unspecified stakeholders.

Republicans usually have criticized Section 230 protections for permitting tech platforms to make allegedly biased selections about what posts to take down, whereas Democrats search to put larger duty on platforms to broaden their content material moderation to make their companies safer for customers.

Other areas of focus

The memo additionally dives into extra particular ideas, together with the next:

Appealing selections. The memo suggests tech platforms ought to have a stronger path for customers to attraction selections they really feel are unfair. One idea says platforms needs to be required to take care of a user-friendly appeals course of to problem selections and inform customers why they had been made.

Carving some firms out fully. The memo suggests carving Big Tech firms out of Section 230 protections so solely smaller companies and new entrants will keep the protections, and repealing the defend for firms that use focused behavioral promoting (the latter of which is similar to a bill Democrats have proposed).

Reauthorization each 5 years. The workers proposed that Section 230 needs to be reauthorized each 5 years for the Big Tech firms, incentivizing them to watch out and permitting for iteration because the business evolves.

Transparency. Another set of principles focuses particularly on transparency across the Big Tech firms’ content material moderation practices, like requiring them to submit detailed descriptions of their insurance policies to the Federal Trade Commission.

Protecting kids. The memo additionally outlines principles to guard kids on-line, a theme that emerged during the committee’s last hearing with several tech CEOs in March. Some of the ideas focus on holding the businesses accountable for content material and advertisements they present to minors, whereas others require them to trace the way in which their merchandise impression kids’s psychological well being.

Working with regulation enforcement. A last set of ideas outlines the methods Big Tech needs to be required to work with regulation enforcement. Many already do work with regulation enforcement and report illicit materials, however conflicts have arisen when enforcers have requested for entry to encrypted data. Apple, when on this state of affairs, mentioned it could not create a so-called backdoor for law enforcement that wouldn’t jeopardize the safety of all of its customers. The memo doesn’t make point out of encryption particularly.

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