On Wednesday, the US Department of Justice proposed legislation to reform the technology industry’s part of legal liability known in law as Section 230, which protects Internet platforms from liability for their users ’posts, but also allows them to modify and remove harmful content without impunity.
The bill focuses on two areas of reform. First, narrowing the criteria that online platforms must meet to obtain the liability protections conferred by Section 230. Second, abolishing legal immunity in certain cases, such as crimes that involve sexual assault against children.
The protections imposed by the law have helped the growth of technology platforms since the early days of the Internet, but have come under scrutiny in recent years as lawmakers and regulators generally questioned the use of these measures to increase the power of technology companies.
Several lawmakers have proposed reforms to Section 230 in recent months, and President Donald Trump signed an executive order in May targeting the law, citing the suppression of alleged "censorship" by technology platforms.
Trump introduced the order shortly after Twitter first placed "fact-checking" stickers on his tweets.
Trump issued the order shortly after Twitter first placed "fact-checking" stickers on his tweets (Reuters)
CNBC says representatives of Twitter, Google and Facebook were not immediately available to comment on the Justice Department's proposal, which would need to be approved by Congress.
Nine Republicans participated in a meeting with Trump and Attorney General William Barr at the White House on Wednesday over the proposed reforms.
Prosecutors from Arizona, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi as well as from Missouri, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and West Virginia spoke with reporters at a roundtable after the meeting alongside Senator Josh Hawley, a Republican from Missouri, a former state attorney general who had introduced his own law to reform Section 230.
After the White House meeting, Jeff Landry of Louisiana Inc., Yilan Moi, told CNBC correspondent in an interview that he plans to join the Justice Department if federal authorities decide to file a case against Google for a monopoly.
"We will definitely join the US Department of Justice," Landry said. "If they take this action, Louisiana will be there. I certainly encourage and hope that all of the countries that participated in this investigation also join."
But Landry said state attorneys can continue to pursue their own claims even if they differ from the Justice Department.
The New York Times reported that the federal case will focus on Google's search business, while the state's Texas-led investigation has largely focused on Google's digital advertising business.
The Internet Society represents the best technical platforms, including Amazon, Facebook, Google and Twitter (Al Jazeera)
The reforms proposed by the Ministry of Justice echo some of the legislation that has already been introduced by lawmakers.
For example, the standards that technology companies must follow to remove content deemed "obscene, vulgar, lascivious, dirty, overly violent" narrows it from personal to "objectively acceptable."
A bill introduced by 3 powerful Republicans earlier this month includes the same standard and similarly narrows the types of content platforms can be protected from being removed, such as content that promotes self-harm or terrorism.
The proposal also includes enactment of the Bad Samaritan Act, which would lift immunity for platforms that fail to take action on content that violates the Federal Criminal Code.
Under the proposal, the platforms could be held liable if they fail to remove or cancel posts that may violate federal criminal law or fail to report illegal material to law enforcement authorities where appropriate.
"Because of Section 230, many voices from across the political spectrum can express their ideas online," the Internet Society said in a statement following the Justice Ministry's proposal.
The trade group represents top tech platforms including Amazon, Facebook, Google and Twitter, and has repeatedly called for Section 230 protection.
The Ministry of Justice proposal specifically states that nothing in the law prevents enforcement under other types of laws, including antitrust laws.
Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google faced antitrust scrutiny from lawmakers and implementers.
Popular websites including The New York Times have reported that the Justice Department is preparing for a case against Google's monopoly that could be filed as soon as this month.
"Internet censorship goes beyond the issue of freedom of expression," White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement, "It is also about protecting consumers and making sure that they are informed of their rights and resources to resist under the law." Their views. "