The SAFE TECH Act offers Section 230 reform, but the law’s defenders warn of major side effects – TechCrunch

The first major section 230 reform proposals of the Biden era are out. In a new bill, Senate Democrats Mark Warner (D-VA), Mazi Hirono (D-HE) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) proposed changes Section 230 of the Communication Mitigation Act Originally the 1996 law would be widely credited with changing the cultivation of the modern Internet.

Section 230 is a legal shield that protects Internet companies from user-created content they host, from Facebook and TickTock to sections of Amazon reviews and comments. New The proposed legislation, known as the Safe Tech Act, Will do a few different things to change how that works.

First, it would fundamentally change the original language of Section 230 – and given how concise the snippet of language is, any change is a major change. Under the new language, section 230 will no longer provide protection in situations where payments are included.

Here is the current version:

No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be considered as the publisher or speaker of any information speech provided by another computer content provider.

And here will be changes to the SAFE TECH Act:

No provider or user of interactive computer service shall be considered as publisher or speaker of any speech Provided by another information content provider, Provider or user has Payment accepted for providing available speech, in whole or in part Or funded for the creation of speech.

(B) (C) (1) (A) would be a corroborative defense to a claim alleging that an interactive computer service provider is a publisher or speaker in relation to a speech provided by another information content provider Is that an interactive computer service provider has the burden of proving by a motion of evidence.

This may not sound like much, but it can be a massive change. in A tweet Promoting the bill, Sen. Warner called online advertisements “a major vector for all sorts of frauds and scandals,” so the home’s goal is to face abuse on stage in the advertisement. But under the current language, it is possible that a variety of paid services may be affected, ranging from Substack, Patron and other types of premium online content to web hosting.

“A good lawyer can argue that it covers many different types of arrangements that go far beyond paid advertisements,” he told TechCrunch, “while making the platform available to the public.” Accept payment from a wide range of. The bill does not limit the exception to cases in which platforms accept payment from speakers. “

Internet companies rely on the protection of Section 230 to make big and small work, but some of them may have to rethink their businesses if the rules proposed in the new bill are passed. Sen. Ron Whedon (D-OR), one of the original authors of section 230, said the new bill has some good intentions, but issued a strong warning against this failure that could have unintended consequences.

“Unfortunately, as written, it will devastate every part of the open Internet, and cause massive collateral damage in online speech,” Widen told TechCrunch, linking the bill to a set of new exceptions Compared the complete repeal of the law with confusion.

“Creating obligations for all commercial relationships will pay web hosts, cloud storage providers, and even email services to purge their networks of any controversial speech,” Whedon said.

Fight for the future Director Evan Greer echoed the sentiment that Bill was well-intentioned but shared similar concerns. “Unfortunately, this bill, as it is written, will have unintended consequences for human rights and freedom of expression,” Greer said.

“It creates a huge caravan in Section 230 that affects not only advertising but also web hosting and all paid services like [content delivery networks], As well as smaller services such as Patron, Bandcamp, and Etsy. “

By focusing on advertising and instances in which a company has accepted payment, the bill may be too broad and too narrow at once to offer effective improvements. While online advertising, particularly political advertising, has become a hot topic in recent discussion about breakdowns on platforms, the vast majority of violent conspiracies, misinformation and organized hatred are the result of organic content, not that stuff. Paid or Promoted. It also does not address the role of algorithms, a particular focus of Narrow section 230 reform proposal From the representative in the House. Anna Ishu (D-CA) and Tom Malinowski (D-NJ).

New exceptions

The second part of the Safe Tech Act, which attracted buyouts from several civil rights organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League, the Center for Countering Digital Hate and Color of Change, cures some of them. By implementing Section 230, the new bill will open Internet companies to greater civil liability in some cases, targeting victims of cybercrime, harassment, discrimination and wrongful opportunity to file cases against those companies Will allow death from

The Safe Tech Act would also create a carve to allow individuals to take court orders in cases when the handling of content hosted by an Internet company is subject to “irreparable harm” as well as human rights against American Internet companies May allow lawsuits in US courts. abroad.

In a press release, Warner said the bill was about updating the 1996 law to bring it in line with modern requirements:

“The purpose of a law is to encourage service providers to develop tools and policies to support effective moderation, instead promoting widespread cleanliness immunity on online providers when they are damaging their products and services.” , Do nothing to address the apparent and repeated abuse, ”Warner said. .

There is no dearth of ideas about reform in Section 230. Among them: a Bipartisan Peck Act from Senators Brian Shutz (D-HI) and John Thun (R-SD), Which focuses on moderation transparency and provides less cover for companies facing federal and state regulators, and 230 of the EARN IT Act, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Richard Blumentel (D-CT) Bill defenders and advocates for internet freedom Unconstitutional, Highly widespread and destructive.

With so many proposed Section 230 reforms already taking place here and there, it is far from guaranteed that a bill like the SAFE TECH Act will prevail. The only thing that is certain is that we will hear more about short snippets with huge consequences for the modern Internet.