Sen. Mark Warner is set to introduce a new bill that could hold Facebook, Google and other tech giants more directly accountable when viral online posts and videos result in real-world harm.
The measure is dubbed the SAFE TECH Act, and it marks the latest salvo from congressional lawmakers against Section 230. The decades-old federal rules help facilitate free expression online, but Democrats including Warner say they also allow the most profitable tech companies to skirt responsibility for hate speech, election disinformation and other dangerous content spreading across the web.
The senator’s new proposal preserves the thrust of Section 230, which generally spares a wide array of website operators from being held liable for what their users say. Instead, it opens an easier legal pathway for Web users to seek court orders and file lawsuits if posts, photos and videos — and the tech industry’s refusal to police them — threaten them personally with abuse, discrimination, harassment, the loss of life or other irreparable harm.
“How can we continue to give this get-out-of-jail card to these platforms that constantly do nothing to address the foreseeable, obvious and repeated misuse of their products and services to cause harm? That was kind of our operating premise,” Warner said.
Ultimately, it would be up to a judge to decide the merits of these claims; the bill mostly opens the door for web users to argue their cases without running as much risk of having them dismissed early. Facebook, Google, Twitter and other social-media sites stand to lose these highly coveted federal protections under Warner’s bill only in the case of abusive paid content, such as online advertisements, that seek to defraud or scam customers….