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The Online Freedom and Viewpoint Diversity Act would modify Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act by conditioning the protection on whether content decisions are “objectively reasonable,” while also limiting the things platforms can act on.
Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which has come under increased scrutiny since President Trump targeted it in an executive order in May, gives internet companies immunity from lawsuits for content posted on their sites by third parties and allows them to make “good faith” efforts to moderate content.
The law is considered foundational for online companies, and the threat of having it revoked has increasingly been proposed as a cudgel to compel platforms to make changes by lawmakers, especially ones on the right.
This new proposal would only extend the protection to companies that restrict access to content where it has the “reasonable belief” it falls into one of the specified categories in the 1996 act.
Section 230’s original phrasing gives platforms wide latitude to pursue content moderation targeted at “obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable” content.
The bill introduced Tuesday would strike the “otherwise objectionable” phrase — which has allowed platforms to take down a wide range of dangerous content — and replace it with ‘‘promoting self-harm, promoting terrorism, or un-lawful.”
The bill would also change the definition of “information content provider” to include any instances of editorializing or modifying content created by another person or entity beyond changes to appearance.
That change would seem to suggest that platforms that do things like fact-check content or strike parts of it would no longer get Section 230 protections, effectively neutering the sort of tough content moderation that experts say is crucial to limiting the spread of misinformation online.
Tuesday’s bill adds to a pile of legislation in the Senate on Section 230.
The Senate Judiciary Committee advanced one such bill earlier this month that would tie Section 230 protections to efforts to combat child sexual abuse material.
The Eliminating Abusive and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies Act would allow federal and state claims against online companies that host child exploitation content.
Critics say the legislation would do little to stop child sex abuse material online and also endanger encryption, which makes it impossible for companies or governments to access private communications between devices.
The bipartisan Platform Accountability and Consumer Transparency Act, which would require greater transparency around platforms’ decisions to moderate their users’ content, remains in committee.
Trump signed an executive order in May that, among other things, directs an agency within the Commerce Department to file a petition with the Federal Communications Commission to clarify the scope of Section 230.
That subagency, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, filed that petition earlier this year and recently closed the open comment period.
The executive order was signed just days after Twitter first appended a fact-checking label to one of Trump’s tweets, which falsely claimed mail-in voting would lead to a rigged election.
This is the whole article from The Hill as it stands, and for alternate news media like The Duran, such changes are vitally needed. My own runins with Facebook censorship increased sharply after that House Judiciary Committee hearing. Not that I am so personally important, but the experience was as though the Big Tech people were determined to show us who is really boss, and I suspect this was felt by many people because of the great shift of many conservatives to Parler around the same time.
It is doubtful that this law’s changes will be passed and put into effect before the election, so I think we are on our own, however, there are some things we can do:
- Create your own “sharing” network within the big socials. Facebook may be aware of my presence, but I have hundreds of contacts that Facebook may not pay attention to. Those contacts can also help spread news through the social network, through instant messaging or sharing posts across their own retinue of groups, chat rooms, etc., even alternate networks.
- Call the senators responsible for this bill being prepared and tell them your experiences. Writing is not sufficient. If the phone numbers are not available, try the Capitol / Senate / House switchboards.
- Call the White House. The number is +1-202-456-1414. Their switchboard for comments to the President is not running steady hours as of September 9th, 2020, due to COVID Phase 3 restrictions – An operator at the White House told me this directly. But call them and get your experiences through to the President.
And of course, keep reading our great news pieces and keep watching our analytic maven, Alexander Mercouris and Alex Christoforou and support The Duran and other alternative media. The burden of truth is on us now.