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Politics & Policy

Hawley Proposes Bill to Scale Back Section 230 Protections for Tech Companies with Large Audiences

Sen. Josh Hawley during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., December 11, 2019 (Erin Scott/Reuters)

Senator Josh Hawley (R., Mo.) is proposing legislation that would set conditions for big tech companies to receive Section 230 immunity, Axios reported on Wednesday.

The proposal comes less than a day after Google threatened to demonetize the right-wing political news website The Federalist unless the site removed its comments section.

The legislation would require tech companies with over 30 million U.S. users per month, and an annual worldwide income of over $1.5 billion, to publish all of their content moderation policies and publicly pledge to act in “good faith” in accordance with those policies. Users who charge that the companies are not implementing content moderation policies fairly would be able to sue for $5,000 plus attorney fees.

Hawley, who has previously floated revoking Section 230 immunity entirely, was joined by co-sponsors Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), Mike Braun (R., In.) and Tom Cotton (R., Ark.).

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act provides tech platforms with immunity for libelous or misleading content posted by a third party.

President Trump and conservative lawmakers have threatened to revoke this immunity following a string of instances in which tech companies were perceived to be unfairly limiting right-wing content through editorial actions like fact-checking.

Trump signed an executive order demanding a review of Section 230 by the Federal Communications Commission, after Twitter placed a fact-check label on a tweet-thread by the president. Cotton revealed on Wednesday that Twitter had threatened to delete his account after the senator called for “no quarter” for looters and rioters taking advantage of George Floyd demonstrations. Twitter claimed that some users may have interpreted Cotton’s words as a call to shoot demonstrators — an interpretation that Cotton claims is implausible.

The Justice Department will soon release a legislative plan to curb Section 230 immunity on social media companies, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.

Send a tip to the news team at NR.

Zachary Evans is a news writer for National Review Online. He is a veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces and a trained violist.

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