Facebook CEO Will Ask Lawmakers To Revise Section 230

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will tell lawmakers Wednesday that he supports revising a federal law that protects web companies from liability for users' posts.

“I believe Congress should update the law to make sure it’s working as intended,” Zuckerberg will tell the Senate Commerce Committee Wednesday, according to his prepared testimony.

He added that the company supports “the ideas around transparency and industry collaboration that are being discussed in some of the current bipartisan proposals.”

The CEOS of Twitter and Google are also expected to testify at Wednesday's hearing, titled "Does Section 230's Sweeping Immunity Enable Big Tech Bad Behavior?"

Section 230 is considered one of the most important laws affecting web companies, largely because it enables online publishers to display unvetted comments without worrying about defamation liability. Without Section 230, sites like Twitter or Yelp could face endless lawsuits by people who allege they were defamed by users.

That law also protects web publishers from lawsuits over decisions to remove content. (Even without Section 230, the First Amendment would still protect online publishers' decisions to suppress posts. But it can be easier for companies to defeat a lawsuit on Section 230 grounds than on a constitutional issue.)

Section 230 has been under intense scrutiny in Washington since at least May, when President Trump issued an executive order directing the Commerce Department to petition the Federal Communications Commission for regulations tying companies' content moderation policies to Section 230 protections.

Trump issued the order after Twitter alerted users to dubious claims in two of his tweets. Like other prominent conservatives, Trump has claimed, without proof, that tech companies suppress right-wing views.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai recently said he plans to move forward with a proceeding to interpret Section 230.

In the last several months, numerous lawmakers also have unveiled bills that would revise the law.

One bipartisan bill introduced by Sens. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and John Thune (R-South Dakota), would require large platforms to take down material that courts have determined is illegal within 24 hours.

That bill also has provisions that would require large online platforms to explain how they moderate content, and allow consumers to initiate complaints about content, and appeal decisions to remove material; those provisions raise clear constitutional concerns, Santa Clara University law professor Eric Goldman told MediaPost in June.

"This law is structurally antithetical to the First Amendment," Goldman said, adding that web publishers, like traditional publishers, have the First Amendment right to reject content without providing reasons.

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