Feb 18, 2020 - Economy

Exclusive: News industry wants to cut Big Tech's safety net

Illustration of the legal hammer pounding a pile of computers

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

The News Media Alliance, a trade group which represents thousands of U.S. newspapers, plans to propose limits to a rule that, to-date, has helped Big Tech companies dodge responsibility for the content people upload to their platforms.

The big picture: The 24-year-old provision, Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, allows tech companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter to host user-generated content on their platforms without being liable for what it contains.

  • The rule has paved the way for the modern internet economy, but has also been blamed for giving tech companies little incentive to police nefarious content or false information on their platforms.

According to a written testimony provided to Axios, NMA will tell parties on Wednesday at the Justice Department's upcoming workshop on Section 230 that policymakers should limit the safe harbor exemption within the law that protects tech platforms from being sued for the content that other people post on its site.

  • "[W]e should start by limiting the exemption for just the very largest companies who both derive the most benefits from Section 230 and have the greatest capacities to take legal responsibility for their commercial decisions around content and reach," the testimony says.
  • NMA CEO David Chavern will be testifying.

The big picture: U.S. Attorney General William Barr said last month that the DOJ was looking into the law because “many are concerned that Section 230 immunity has been extended far beyond what Congress originally intended,” per Reuters.

Go deeper: National newspapers thrive while local outlets struggle to survive

Go deeper