Warner Part 230 invoice would make simpler to sue social media platforms

Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) interviewed David Marcus, head of Facebook’s Calibra (Digital Wallet Service), during a testimony prior to a hearing of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs on “Review of Facebook’s Proposed Considerations on Digital Currency and.” Privacy “in Washington. 16th July 2019.

Erin Scott | Reuters

A new democratic law would make it easier for harassment targets to sue social media platforms that host abusive or harmful content.

The “SAFE TECH Act,” spearheaded by Senator Mark Warner, D-Va., And endorsed by Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., And Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, would change the shield that tech platforms protect from liability protects for the contributions of its users. In the event of a law, the bill would make a number of platforms, including social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Google’s YouTube, as well as e-commerce sites like Amazon and Etsy, better known. The very targeted nature of the legislation and the remarkable group of supporters could position it as a leading bill in efforts to reform Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act in the now democratically controlled Senate.

Warner is a former telecommunications executive and venture capitalist who currently serves as the chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Klobuchar is now the chairman of the Senate Antitrust Subcommittee, and Hirono is also a member of the Judiciary Committee and a frequent technology critic.

The proposed changes to the Internet Act of 1996 would not necessarily create more successful challenges for the technology platforms, but they would at least give plaintiffs a greater chance to bring their claims to court. When social media users or harassment targets try to sue tech platforms for hosting malicious content or removing their own posts, the cases are quickly stopped because tech platforms have extensive liability immunity as per Section 230.

Instead, the SAFE TECH Act would make it clear that Section 230 immunity would not apply in several cases.

For example, the proposal could hold platforms responsible for hosting ads or other forms of paid content aimed at vulnerable consumers with fraud or fraudulent products. This would also allow stalking, harassment, and intimidation targets to seek accountability for platforms if they believe the websites helped directly facilitate the damage. Families prosecuting unlawful death suits for deceased loved ones could also try to hold platforms accountable if they believe their placement matters. It would also ensure that civil rights law enforcement is not hindered by the protection of the platforms under Section 230.

One aspect of the bill could be particularly risky for Facebook, as it was recognized in 2018 that it is “too slow to prevent misinformation and hatred” as Myanmar military officials attempted to arm it in what has been characterized as genocide against the Rohingya minority Muslims . The SAFE TECH Act would make it clear that Section 230 immunity should not preclude any Alien Tort Claims Act lawsuits that could allow survivors of the Myanmar genocide to bring cases against the platform in the United States

The bill could serve as a lifeline for victims of targeted harassment campaigns, such as a disinformation campaign published in the New York Times over the weekend, by seeking injunctive relief to cut jobs that could cause irreparable harm.

The bill differs from other proposals that have already been tabled in the Senate. This legislation has attempted to tie liability protection to compliance with certain standards and audits, or attempted to limit the types of content platforms should not be held liable for the degradation. The SAFE TECH Act, on the other hand, opens up ways in which platforms for hosting certain types of content can be sued.

In an interview on CNBC’s “Closing Bell” on Friday, Warner said the bill “will only happen if it’s non-partisan”.

He said he has already started speaking to some of his Republican friends and believes the bill has bipartisan support.

“There are some on [the] The Republican side, which believes the platforms are biased against conservatives, “he said.” And the truth is, these platforms are geared towards getting more eyeballs, and more eyeballs usually mean promoting extremist propaganda, extremist posts at both ends of political extremes. So I don’t think they have a tendency one way or another, the tendency is to make money. “

Warner said the group had “opened talks with the White House,” and while acknowledging President Joe Biden’s desire to go further by repealing the law, Warner said he believed the legislation had “one Sweet spot reached “. He also said he envisioned possible spin-offs for startups could be considered when negotiating the bill.

However, the bill is already facing a setback, even from the progressive digital rights group Fight for the Future. The group said that while they shared legislature’s concerns about eliminating real-world damage caused by tech platforms, they still considered the bill too detrimental to support, saying it was “in Essentially Brave, Section 230 “.

“It would cement the monopoly power of the biggest tech companies like Facebook and Google while destroying small websites and making the Internet almost unusable for activism and organization,” Evan Greer, director of Fight for the Future, said in a statement.

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