Jun 11, 2020 - Technology

Scoop: White House taps Hawley to take aim at tech shield

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) speaks at a Senate hearing.

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) Photo: Al-Drago-Pool/Getty Images

At the request of the Trump administration, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) is working on new legislation targeting the tech industry's liability shield, a source familiar with the effort told Axios.

Why it matters: The Hawley bill will be an additional threat against platforms like Facebook and Twitter following President Donald Trump's executive order aimed at curbing their legal protections from content posted by users.

Details: The legislation would open platforms to legal liability if they enforce their terms of services in unequal or uneven ways, including by making politically motivated moderation decisions.

  • That would be a reversal from the broad immunity from lawsuits over both user-posted content and making moderation calls like taking down posts and banning user accounts that platforms have under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996.
  • Hawley and his office have had multiple conversations with senior White House and Justice Department on revisiting Section 230, the source said. They have shared draft text of the measure with other Senate offices seeking cosponsors, and the bill could be introduced as early as next week.

The big picture: The Trump administration and others on the right claim that online platforms have a heavier hand in moderating conservative views online.

  • Democrats too have been critical of the protections Section 230 offers, but want to see platforms better moderate false or harmful content online.
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