Bipartisan Senate Proposal To Reform Section 230 Introduced

Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) introduced bipartisan legislation on Wednesday, entitled, the Platform Accountability and Consumer Transparency Act (PACT Act), which reforms Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which exempts tech platforms from liability for the content users post.

“My own judgment is that the conversation in Congress about Section 230 has been stupid and polarized,” Sen. Schatz stated. “Our approach is a scalpel rather than jackhammer.”

The legislation would require tech platforms to explain to consumers in an easy-to-understand way their content moderation practices and policies; release quarterly reports on the content that was removed, demonetized or has its reach limited; create a complaint system that will notify users about content moderation decisions within 14 days, and allow users to appeal the decision. It would mandate tech companies to make an array of disclosures regarding their content moderation. In instances where a company is notified for known illegal content or pursued by federal regulators for a civil action, the bill does not provide for immunity. Platforms would be required to remove court-ordered illegal content within 24 hours and they could face lawsuits from regulators. State attorneys general also gain enforcement power.

“There is a bipartisan consensus that Section 230, which governs certain internet use, is ripe for reform,” Sen. Thune said. “The internet has thrived because of the light touch approach by which it’s been governed in its relatively short history. By using that same approach when it comes to Section 230 reform, we can ensure platform users are protected, while also holding companies accountable.”

This comes after President Trump signed an executive order regarding Section 230; he sought regulation and oversight for tech platform’s content moderation decisions. The order came after Twitter flagged one of President Trump’s tweets urging users to fact-check and concerns about misinformation and potential bias. While other bills would allow users to report certain content moderation to the government, the PACT Act has the reporting remain within the platform.

The EARN IT Act was another proposed bill examining Section 230 immunity, specifically, trying to stop tech platforms from distributing child exploitation or sexual abuse material by removing their Section 230 immunity.