McEachin, Castor introduce the SAFE TECH Act to reform Section 230

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Congressman A. Donald McEachin (VA-04) and Congresswoman Kathy Castor (FL-14) introduced the House companion bill of the Safeguarding Against Fraud, Exploitation, Threats, Extremism and Consumer Harms (SAFE TECH) Act to reform Section 230 and allow consumers to hold social media platforms accountable.

Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) introduced the Senate version of the bill in February of this year.

“The internet looks a lot different today than it did when Section 230 was originally enacted in 1996. The law, which was originally meant to provide safe harbor for sites trying to establish effective moderation tools, acts as a crutch for large platforms to buck liability for harmful and—more often than not— illegal actions,” McEachin said. “This legislation does not restrict free speech; nor does it guarantee that platforms will be held liable in all cases. Rather, the SAFE TECH Act provides victims of online abuse, harassment, and discrimination with a path for recourse. For too long we have allowed platforms to self-police, and it simply has not worked. It’s time to start looking for solutions, and the SAFE TECH Act offers a viable one.”

“For too long, big tech companies have treated the internet like the wild west while users on their platforms violate civil and human rights, defraud consumers and harass others. These companies have shown over and over again that they are unwilling to make their platforms safe for Americans. It is long past time for consumers to have legal recourse when big tech companies harm them or their families. Our bill will ensure they are finally held accountable,” Castor said.

“I applaud my colleagues in the House for taking up this important legislation to hold tech companies accountable for enabling harmful behavior on their platforms,” Warner said. “For too long, Section 230 has given the largest platform companies a free pass to ignore the ways their sites are used by scam artists, harassers, and violent extremists to cause real-world harm. I look forward to continuing to work to push the SAFE TECH Act forward and make online platforms a safer place for all.”

“Twenty-five years after it was introduced, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act immunizes some of the biggest companies in the world against claims their platforms are used to violate civil and human rights, stalk and harass people, and defraud consumers,” Hirono said. “The SAFE TECH Act modernizes Section 230 by creating targeted exceptions to this broad immunity. Internet platforms must either address the serious harms they can inflict or face potential civil liability.”

The SAFE TECH Act would reform Section 230 of the Communication Decency Act to:

  • Limit the scope of Section 230 immunity by preventing platforms from invoking liability protections for:
    • Advertisements or other paid content—ensuring platforms cannot continue to profit as their services act as a conduit to scam vulnerable consumers;
    • Enforcement of civil rights laws—allowing for the enforcement of vital laws to combat discrimination online;
    • Laws involving stalking/cyber-stalking or harassment and intimidation on the basis of protected classes—allowing victims of abuse and targeted harassment to hold platforms accountable when service providers directly enable harmful activity;
    • Wrongful death actions—safeguarding families’ ability to bring a suit against platforms where the platform directly contributed to a loss of life;
    • Suits under the Alien Tort Claims Act—potentially allowing victims of human rights violations abroad enabled by a platform to seek redress in the U.S. against U.S.-based platforms.
  • Limit Section 230’s ‘Good Samaritan’ protections by allowing victims to seek injunctive relief to prevent the spread of material on a platform likely to cause irreparable harm;
  • Make Section 230 an affirmative defense, placing the burden of persuasion on platforms raising Section 230 to prove they are being treated as a publisher by another information content provider.

Bill text is available here

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