Skip to main content

DOJ proposes legislation to gut Big Tech’s legal shield

The Department of Justice (DOJ) unveiled legislation to radically reform Section 230 on Wednesday, September 23, which would strip many of the legal protections social media platforms and tech companies now have by making them liable for users’ posts.

While the legislation is just a draft, the DOJ’s suggestions focus on narrowing the criteria online platforms would need to meet to have liability protections and establish what type, if any, immunity platforms get for specific cases, according to CNBC.

Under the new draft, legal immunity would be removed when platforms enable criminal activity or don’t consistently follow their content moderation policies — an allegation that has long riled conservatives who claim tech companies unfairly censor their views.

The legislation would also enforce a standard that tech companies must remove “obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent” content or lose their legal immunity.

Platforms could also end up facing civil suits relating to content that promotes online child exploitation and terrorism.

Tracy Le Blanc/Pexels

The draft would need still to be passed by Congress, but both Democrats (including the presidential nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden) and Republicans have said they want to look into the legal protections that social media outlets now have.

Talks about changing Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act have been going on for some time, but gained steam in May after President Donald Trump signed an executive order targeting social media platforms. The executive order — purportedly to crack down on alleged “censorship” — came shortly after Twitter attached a fact-checking notice to Trump’s tweets.

Other social media companies have since followed suit, flagging content from the president for spreading misinformation or glorifying violence.

Section 230 protects websites from being liable if one of their users posts something illegal or controversial, so you can’t sue Twitter for a tweet someone posted, for example. The specific wording says, “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”

This law has been essential to creating social media as it currently exists since it allows people to converse freely, post creative works, and contribute information across platforms.

Many opponents of repealing Section 230 argue that it would remove free speech on the internet and break the internet as we know it.

Editors' Recommendations

Allison Matyus
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Allison Matyus is a general news reporter at Digital Trends. She covers any and all tech news, including issues around social…
Twitter has reportedly suspended signups for Twitter Blue
Twitter Blue menu option on a white screen background which is on a black background.

The start of Elon Musk's tenure as owner of Twitter has not been without its struggles and chaos. And so far, the chaos Twitter currently finds itself in shows no signs of letting up anytime soon.

So it seems fitting that the latest news on the Twitter front is that signups for the microblogging platform's $8-per-month Twitter Blue subscription have reportedly been suspended. On Friday, Forbes reported that new signups for Twitter's newly revamped Blue subscription have apparently been disabled, having "verified that users have not been able to sign up to the service for more than an hour," and also citing that the option to sign up for Blue on the iOS app had disappeared as further proof of the suspension. The Verge also noted that some users may still see the option to subscribe, only to then be met with an error message. One of the editors at Digital Trends said the option to sign up for the service is just missing from his iOS app's menu, noted that it had been like that "since at least 8 p.m. PT last night," and shared the following screenshot:

Read more
Twitter begins rollout of new gray check marks only to abruptly remove them
Elon Musk.

In the middle of writing an article about Twitter's initial rollout of a new gray check mark verification badge, we noticed something odd: Twitter accounts that had the new gray check marks only minutes earlier were suddenly without them again. So what happened?

Elon Musk apparently happened. Mere hours after his newly purchased social media platform began its rollout of a new gray check mark in an effort to help clarify which high-profile accounts were actually verified, the new gray check marks began disappearing from various accounts, evidently at Musk's behest. Just take a look at this tweet conversation between web video producer Marques Brownlee and Musk:

Read more
Some blue check Twitter users were unable to edit their names
Twitter app on the OnePlus 10T.

Twitter's recent blue check verification drama took an even sillier turn yesterday. Amid all the recent commotion regarding Twitter Blue subscriptions, paying for blue checks, and impersonation versus parody, some Twitter users temporarily lost their ability to edit their screen names.

On Monday evening, some verified Twitter users began reporting that they couldn't change their screen names. It's unclear to us at this time if the issue these users were experiencing was a bug or a new feature of a platform that was recently purchased by Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

Read more