The 411 on the proposed Sec. 230 rewrite (trying to rein in social media)

Ars Technica tackles Section 230 proposed reform, including the intentions of the authors and the various loopholes and unintended consequences that could follow. It’s an interesting read; I’m only including the introduction…

A trio of Democratic Senators has taken this administration’s first stab at Section 230 reform with a new bill that would make platforms, including giants such as Facebook and Twitter, liable for certain limited categories of dangerous content. Unfortunately, although the bill’s authors try to thread a tricky needle carefully, critics warn that bad-faith actors could nonetheless easily weaponize the bill as written against both platforms and other users.

The bill (PDF), dubbed the SAFE TECH Act, seeks not to repeal Section 230 (as some Republicans have proposed) but instead to amend it with new definitions of speakers and new exceptions from the law’s infamous liability shield.

“A law meant to encourage service providers to develop tools and policies to support effective moderation has instead conferred sweeping immunity on online providers even when they do nothing to address foreseeable, obvious and repeated misuse of their products and services to cause harm,” said Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), who introduced the bill. “This bill doesn’t interfere with free speech—it’s about allowing these platforms to finally be held accountable for harmful, often criminal behavior enabled by their platforms to which they have turned a blind eye for too long.”

Sens. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) also co-sponsored the bill.

The topic is wonky – a fine blend of technology and policy but the author explains that a proposed change turns…

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.

Into…

No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any speech provided by another information content provider, except to the extent the provider or user has accepted payment to make the speech available or, in whole or in part, created or funded the creation of the speech.

There are some other changes as well..

The proposal also explicitly creates new carve-outs from the “Good Samaritan” liability shield that protects platforms from lawsuits. Users would be able to file lawsuits for injunctive relief (i.e., a court order requiring someone to stop doing something) for unmoderated material that “is likely to cause irreparable harm.” Basically, if someone is harassing you on Twitter, and every report to Twitter about the offending tweets is returned with a version of “this doesn’t violate our guidelines,” you could in theory go to court to demand Twitter take the harassing posts down.

SAFE TECH also adds a litany of new exceptions to the section of the law that governs how it interacts with other laws, adding civil rights laws; antitrust laws; stalking, harassment, or intimidation laws; international human rights law; and wrongful death actions to the list of laws on which Sec. 230 has no effect.

The “red-lined” version of the bill (PDF) shows where the edits would fit into the current law.

This entry was posted in New Media, Policy and tagged by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (blandinonbroadband.org), hosts a radio show on MN music (mostlyminnesota.com), supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota (elimstrongtowershelters.org) and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

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