DOJ seeking to reduce liability protections for tech platforms

The Justice Department has sent legislation to Congress that would weaken the liability protections of tech platforms to prevent online censorship.

The draft legislation targets Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act that for too long “has provided a shield for online platforms to operate with impunity,” Attorney General William Barr said in a statement Wednesday.

“Ensuring that the internet is a safe, but also vibrant, open and competitive environment is vitally important to America. We therefore urge Congress to make these necessary reforms to Section 230 and begin to hold online platforms accountable both when they unlawfully censor speech and when they knowingly facilitate criminal activity online,” Barr said in the statement.

The action follows through on an executive order signed by President Trump to stop online censorship and comes after a yearlong examination of the two-decade-old statute by the Justice Department and a group of experts, victims’ groups, academics, businesses and other stakeholders.

The legislation would curb the liability protections of online platforms that host third-party content that violates federal law.

It would also remove shields that protect the big tech firms from claims over “particularly egregious content,” including child exploitation and sexual abuse, terrorism and cyber-stalking.

It also seeks to clarify federal antitrust claims not covered in Section 230, saying the “avenues for engaging in both online commerce and speech have concentrated in the hands of a few key players.”

Trump earlier this month accused social media platforms of being “biased” and censoring conservative voices.

“Why does Twitter leave phony pictures like this up, but take down Republican/Conservative pictures and statements that are true?” Trump tweeted.

The tweet included a picture of the viral “Moscow Mitch” meme, which took the internet by storm in mid-2019 when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) blocked an election security bill.

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