US Justice Department Proposes Changes to Internet Platforms' Immunity

The Justice Department is also probing Google for potential breaches of antitrust law.

Share on Facebook Tweet Snapchat Share Reddit Comment
US Justice Department Proposes Changes to Internet Platforms' Immunity

Trump told reporters he expects to come to a conclusion on the issue within a short period

Highlights
  • Critics have accused Google of breaking antitrust law
  • Trump's administration is watching the performance of tech platforms
  • The Justice Department's proposal would need congressional approval

President Donald Trump met with nine Republican state attorneys general on Wednesday to discuss the fate of a legal immunity for internet companies after the Justice Department unveiled a legislative proposal aimed at reforming the same law.

Trump met with attorneys general from Arizona, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia.

Also Wednesday, the Justice Department, which is probing Google for potential breaches of antitrust law, held a call with state attorneys general's offices to preview a complaint to be filed against the search and advertising giant, perhaps as soon as next week, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

It is normal for the department to seek support from state attorneys general when it files big lawsuits.

Critics have accused Google, owned by Alphabet, of breaking antitrust law by abusing its dominance of online advertising and its Android smartphone operating system as well as favoring its own businesses in search.

The Justice Department is expected to wait at least another week before filing the lawsuit as states review its case and decide whether to join, people familiar with the matter said.

The White House said the legal immunity discussion involved how the attorneys general can utilise existing legal recourses at the state level, in an effort to weaken the law known as Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects internet companies from liability over content posted by users.

After the meeting, Trump told reporters he expects to come to a conclusion on the issue of technology platforms within a short period. It was not immediately clear what conclusion he was referring to.

He said his administration is watching the performance of tech platforms in the run-up to the November 3 presidential election.

"In recent years, a small group of powerful technology platforms have tightened their grip over commerce and communications in America," Trump said. "Every year countless Americans are banned, blacklisted and silenced through arbitrary or malicious enforcement of ever-shifting rules."

Trump, who himself frequently posts on Twitter, said Twitter routinely restricts expressions of conservative views.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Justice Department unveiled a legislative proposal to reform Section 230. It followed through on Trump's bid earlier this year to crack down on tech giants after Twitter placed warning labels on some of Trump's tweets, saying they have included potentially misleading information about mail-in voting.

The Justice Department's proposal would need congressional approval, and is not likely to see action until next year at the earliest. Unless the Republicans win control of the House of Representatives and maintain control of the Senate in the November elections, any bill would need Democratic support.

The Justice Department proposal primarily states that when internet companies "willfully distribute illegal material or moderate content in bad faith, Section 230 should not shield them from the consequences of their actions."

It proposes a series of reforms to ensure internet companies are transparent about their decisions when removing content and when they should be held responsible for speech they modify. It also revises existing definitions of Section 230 with more concrete language that offers more guidance to users and courts.

It also incentivises online platforms to address illicit content and pushes for more clarity on federal civil enforcement actions.

Attorney General William Barr said in a statement the administration was urging "Congress to make these necessary reforms to Section 230 and begin to hold online platforms accountable both when they unlawfully censor speech and when they knowingly facilitate egregious criminal activity online."

The Internet Association, which represents major internet companies including Facebook, Amazon and Google, said the Justice Department's proposal would severely limit people's ability to express themselves and have a safe experience online.

The group's deputy general counsel, Elizabeth Banker, said moderation efforts that remove misinformation, platform manipulation and cyberbullying would all result in lawsuits under the proposal.

© Thomson Reuters 2020


Are Apple Watch SE, iPad 8th Gen the Perfect ‘Affordable' Products for India? We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.

Comments

For the latest tech news and reviews, follow Gadgets 360 on Twitter, Facebook, and Google News. For the latest videos on gadgets and tech, subscribe to our YouTube channel.

Further reading: Donald Trump, Google, Twitter, Facebook, Amazon
Zack Snyder’s Justice League Reshoots Set for October: Report

Related Stories

 
 

Advertisement

Advertisement

© Copyright Red Pixels Ventures Limited 2020. All rights reserved.
Listen to the latest songs, only on JioSaavn.com