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Justice to submit proposal to Congress to limit immunity for tech platforms

The legislation will likely be considered by Congress following this year's election

Updated: September 23, 2020 - 6:05pm

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The Justice Department is planning to submit a proposal to Congress that would mitigate certain legal protections for internet giants including Facebook, Google and Twitter. The proposal would require the companies to assume a greater amount of responsibility for managing the content on their platforms. 

The proposal reportedly advances two primary goals of the Trump administration – motivating online platforms to address illicit and inappropriate conduct on their sites and supervising the content on their platforms in fair and uniform ways.

President Trump was scheduled Wednesday to meet with state attorneys general to discuss "protecting consumers from social media abuses."

Since June, the Justice Department has amended its proposal to include feedback received from tech executives and victims' rights groups. Specifically, changes include immunity for the online platforms when they remove posts that promote violence and self-harm.

However, the the proposal would not promote immunity for the sites in instances of posts promoting child exploitation, terrorism, and cyberstalking. Justice officials think companies must be held accountable in those instances in order for victims to be able to successfully seek legal remedies for some of their situations.

Republicans and Democrats have been critical of massive online platforms for their role in catalyzing criminal activity.

Democratic lawmakers also think internet giants should be doing more to prevent the spread of false information online. Republicans take issue with what they think are biased censorship decisions, levied primarily against conservative users. 

Internet companies have long taken a stance against repealing the federal law – Section 320 of the Communication Decency Act – arguing that it has allowed their industry to flourish without fear of constant and excessive legal battles. 

The department's proposal would strip Section 230 legal immunity from online platforms that don't maintain certain behavioral standards, including facilitating criminal activity or knowingly fail to restrict or report illegal conduct. They would additionally be required to outline specific content-moderation guidelines and follow them in a consistent manner. 

Congress could opt to consider the proposal next year.

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