Senators Seek To Curb Big Techs' Legal Shield

Some lawmakers from both sides of the aisle called for revisions to a 28-year-old media law that protects tech companies from liability for material posted by users.

“Of all the people in America we could give blanket liability protection to, this would be the last group I would pick,” Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) told executives from Meta, TikTok, X, Snap and Discord at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday morning.

“It is now time to repeal Section 230,” Graham added, referring to a 1996 law that immunizes interactive services companies from liability over content posted by consumers and other third parties.

“Go to the American courtroom and defend your practices,” Graham said. “Open up the courthouse door. Until you do that, nothing will change.”



Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) added: “The time for all this immunity is done.”

The lawmakers' comments came at a hearing addressing potential harms of social media to minors, and potential legislation.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island) suggested at the hearing that tech platforms facilitate a host of social ills, ranging from bullying to drug overdoses to child pornography.

“As a collective, your platforms really suck at policing themselves,” Whitehouse told the executives.

“It seems to me that there is a problem with accountability,” he said, adding that he believes Section 230 “is a very significant part of that problem.”

One of the bills discussed at the hearing was the EARN IT Act (Eliminating Abusive and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies), originally introduced several years ago by Graham and Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut). That bill would revise Section 230 by exposing web companies to civil lawsuits and state prosecutions for hosting user-generated child sex-abuse material.

The National Center on Sexual Exploitation supports the EARN IT Act, but critics say it threatens privacy and cybersecurity by discouraging companies from using encryption.

While the EARN IT Act provides that using encryption technology isn't in itself grounds for liability, the bill also specifies that courts can consider a company's use of encryption as evidence.

Blumenthal separately asked the executives whether they supported the Kids Online Safety Act -- a controversial proposed law that would regulate how social media platforms display ads and content to minors under 17.

Linda Yaccarino, CEO of X, said the company supports the bill. Snap and Microsoft have said they also support the proposed law.

Many digital rights organizations including the Electronic Frontier Foundation oppose the proposed law, arguing it could prevent teens from accessing content protected by free speech principles. In general, the First Amendment prohibits the government from suppressing a range of content that law enforcement officials like attorneys general might consider harmful -- ranging from photos associated with eating disorders, to “hate speech,” to material discussing drug use.

1 comment about "Senators Seek To Curb Big Techs' Legal Shield".
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  1. Thomas Siebert from BENEVOLENT PROPAGANDA, February 1, 2024 at 10:10 a.m.

    Lavender Lindsey Graham should be the last person criticizing anybody about child abuse. Closeted self-righteous war-mongering phony right-winger is one of the most blackmailable puppets in Washington, D.C. 

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