internet bills, FCC subsidy, pandemic relief
Photo credit: PxHere

In a bipartisan effort to get Big Tech companies to the bargaining table, two senior lawmakers are threatening to take away Section 230, which currently shields them from liability for content posted on their platforms.

Listen To This Story
Voiced by Amazon Polly

When the Internet was in its infancy, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act shielded tech platforms from legal liability for content posted by their users. 

Fast forward nearly 30 years, and things have gotten totally out of hand. Child pornography can be found everywhere, and all types of criminals are running rampant online… and these tech platforms have little incentive to curb this harmful content. 

Now, in a rare show of bipartisanship in Congress, the leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee have had enough. 

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), who chairs the panel, and ranking Democrat Rep. Frank Pallone (NJ) introduced legislation that would repeal Section 230 and take away that protection. 

The real purpose of the bill, however, is to get the tech company to come to the table to negotiate a better solution. 

In other words, if they want to still enjoy some kind of protection, then they will have to come to the bargaining table or end up with nothing on Jan. 1, 2026.

Rodgers and Pallone explained the reasoning behind their legislation in a Wall Street Journal op-ed. 

“The Internet’s original promise was to help people and businesses connect, innovate and share information,” the lawmakers wrote. “Section 230 of the [Communications Decency Act] helped shepherd the Internet from the ‘you’ve got mail’ era into today’s global nexus of communication and commerce.”

Now, however, that provision is “poisoning the healthy online ecosystem it once fostered,” and “Big Tech companies are exploiting the law to shield them from any responsibility or accountability as their platforms inflict immense harm on Americans, especially children.”

The lawmakers not only point fingers at Big Tech but also at themselves. 

“Congress’s failure to revisit this law is irresponsible and untenable,” they wrote. “That is why we’re taking bipartisan action.”

In a deeply divided country, the fact that the two lawmakers are even teaming up, especially on such an important issue, is significant. But, they say, a lot is at stake. 

“We must act because Big Tech is profiting from children, developing algorithms that push harmful content on to our kids’ feeds and refusing to strengthen their platforms’ protections against predators, drug dealers, sex traffickers, extortioners and cyberbullies,” they wrote. “Children are paying the price, developing addictive and dangerous habits, often at the expense of their mental health. Big Tech has failed to uphold American democratic values and be fair stewards of the speech they host.”

Their sponsorship certainly seems to indicate that this bill can move this year. If it were to get to President Joe Biden’s desk, he would likely sign it. In 2020, he said that he wants to get rid of Section 230.  

All of that may get the online platforms to the bargaining table. 

“Our bill gives Big Tech a choice: Work with Congress to ensure the Internet is a safe, healthy place for good, or lose Section 230 protections entirely,” McMorris Rodgers and Pallone wrote.


Comments are closed.