U.S. Justice Department proposes rolling back protections for big tech
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Justice Department proposed on Wednesday that Congress take up legislation to curb protections that big tech platforms like Alphabet’s (GOOGL.O) Google and Facebook (FB.O) have had for decades, a senior official said, following through on U.S. President Donald Trump’s bid to crack down on tech giants.
FILE PHOTO: A 3D-printed Facebook logo is seen placed on a keyboard in this illustration taken March 25, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo
The goal of the proposal, which is being finalized, is to push tech companies to address criminal content on their platforms and boost transparency for users when the outlets take down lawful material, the senior Justice Department official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. But to become law, U.S. lawmakers would need to propose and approve legislation based on the department’s recommendations.
The president, who has battled Twitter (TWTR.N) and other tech companies over alleged censorship of conservative voices on social media platforms, said in late May he would propose legislation that may scrap or weaken the law shielding internet companies, in an extraordinary attempt to regulate the outlets where he has been criticized.
Trump wants to “remove or change” a provision of a law known as Section 230. Under the 1996 Communications Decency Act, Section 230 does not generally hold platforms responsible for what their users post and allows them to moderate the content of their sites as they see fit.
The Wall Street Journal first reported the proposal.
Trump has attacked Twitter for tagging his tweets about unsubstantiated claims of fraud about mail-in voting with a warning prompting readers to fact-check the posts.
The White House welcomed news of the Justice Department proposal. “The president expressly called on DOJ to develop such model legislation in the Executive Order signed recently, and yes, President Trump is pleased to see the department following through,” said White House spokesman Judd Deere.
Google, Facebook and Twitter did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Carl Szabo, general counsel of NetChoice which counts Google and Facebook among its members, said any such bill would make it harder for companies like Google, which owns YouTube, to moderate content to remove, for example, videos used to recruit terrorists.
“Because this would prevent platforms from removing objectionable content, the House (of Representatives) won’t take it up,” he said.
Also on Wednesday, Senator Josh Hawley joined with three other Republicans to introduce a bill that would allow people to sue tech companies if they feel that their speech has been censored.
Reporting by Diane Bartz and Alexandra Alper; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Andrea Ricci