Dec 10, 2019

Pelosi loses push to strip tech liability shield from USMCA

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi discusses the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement at a Dec. 10 news conference on Capitol Hill.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi discusses the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement at a Dec. 10 news conference on Capitol Hill. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images.

A Tuesday compromise to finalize the new North American trade agreement includes provisions extending the U.S.'s liability shield for online platforms to Mexico and Canada, despite House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's objections.

Driving the news: Pelosi said her "one disappointment" in the deal House Democrats and the White House reached Tuesday on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement is the inclusion of language similar to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. That measure protects tech companies against lawsuits over user-posted material.

The big picture: Getting Section 230-style language into trade agreements is a big win for the tech industry. It extends the law's protections into other countries, and it makes it harder for U.S. lawmakers to tinker with tech's liability shield. Threats to carve into it have come from both Republicans, who claim tech companies are biased against conservatives, and Democrats, who say platforms aren't doing enough to fight misinformation and hate speech.

What they're saying: Pelosi, who publicly voiced concerns about including the provision last week, said Tuesday she only became aware of it after she promised the Trump administration she wouldn't let additional issues enter into their talks to finalize USMCA.

  • "Unfortunately, I got it after I made the pledge of not moving any goalposts," Pelosi said.

Tech industry groups including the Internet Association and BSA | The Software Alliance praised the digital trade rules in the agreement.

  • "The strong digital provisions in the agreement will benefit businesses of all sizes in every state by helping them reach new markets and customers in Mexico and Canada," IA President Michael Beckerman said in a statement.
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