Jun 17, 2020 - Technology

Exclusive: Hawley unveils bill targeting Big Tech's shield

An illustration of mouse cursors pointing at a shield.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) Wednesday will introduce legislation that would give consumers grounds to sue companies like Facebook or Twitter over accusations of selective censorship of political speech.

The big picture: The legislation is the latest attack on online platforms' legal protections from liability over content posted by users, and comes after President Trump signed an executive order taking aim at the protections in May.

Details: The Limiting Section 230 Immunity to Good Samaritans Act would prevent major online companies from receiving the protections of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act unless they revise their terms of service to include pledges to operate in good faith and details of their content moderation policies, according to Hawley's office.

  • Section 230 protects website operators from lawsuits over user-generated content and empowers them to moderate content without losing that legal protection.
  • Under Hawley's bill, users who believe the provider is not "operating in good faith" by consistently and fairly applying its content rules could sue for $5,000 and attorneys' fees.
  • The bill is also sponsored by Republican Sens. Marco Rubio, Mike Braun and Tom Cotton, Hawley's office said.

Yes, but: The legislation would only apply to websites or mobile apps with more than 30 million users in the U.S. in a month — or 300 million worldwide in a month — and more than $1.5 billion in global revenue.

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