President Trump’s battle against social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook continued this week with the help of Senate Republicans. Last month, the president publicly butted heads with Twitter when the platform fact-checked one of his tweets. Shortly thereafter, he signed an executive order taking aim at supposed censorship on social media. Now, Republican senators including Marco Rubio and Josh Hawley have introduced legislation to punish platforms that take down political content, opening them up to legal repercussions.
Senator Hawley introduced the legislation, known as the Limiting Section 230 Immunity to Good Samaritans Act, on Wednesday, June 17. It refers to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. This statute allows social media platforms to regulate content posted by users without fear of legal action.
“For too long, Big Tech companies like Twitter, Google and Facebook have used their power to silence political speech from conservatives without any recourse for users,” Senator Hawley said in a statement. “Congress should act to ensure bad actors are not given a free pass to censor and silence their opponents.”
Holding Tech Companies Responsible?
According to The Verge, the new legislation would require companies to undertake a “duty of good faith” to be protected by Section 230. Companies found to be acting in bad faith — that is, removing content based on political biases — would be open to liability.
The violation would also be treated as worthy of damages itself. A platform found to have removed a post on political grounds, for example, would have to pay the user who posted it $5,000, plus attorney fees.
The legislation, which echoes President Trump’s calls to remove liability protections for social media, would apply to sites and apps that have more than 30 million users in the United States per month, or 300 million worldwide users per month. While it wouldn’t have any effect on the type of fact-check the president received on Twitter, the legislation targets the same regulations that Trump sought to modify with his executive order.
Meanwhile, the Department of Justice is at work on its own social media reforms, according to the Wall Street Journal via CNBC. These are said to focus more on social media companies who facilitate illegal activities like selling drugs and perpetrating scams. The department is expected to unveil its social media plans sometime this week.