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Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The Justice Department unveiled on Wednesday a proposal to curb protections for online platforms that host third-party content provided by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

The big picture: Barr said he'd send a Section 230 proposal to Congress, and he's doing it. Efforts to change 230 have garnered bipartisan support, but Congress is preoccupied with the election, the pandemic, and a Supreme Court vacancy.

How it works: The DOJ released a proposal for how it would change the current text of the law.

  • That includes the removal of legal immunity when platforms facilitate criminal activity or fail to report unlawful conduct, or when platforms don't follow their own content moderation practices consistently.
  • The proposal would allow platforms to face civil suits relating to content that promotes online child exploitation and terrorism.

What they're saying: “For too long Section 230 has provided a shield for online platforms to operate with impunity,” Barr said in a release. “We therefore urge Congress... to make these necessary reforms to Section 230 and begin to hold online platforms accountable both when they unlawfully censor speech and when they knowingly facilitate egregious criminal activity online.”

Yes, but: Legislative proposals changing Section 230 that have come from Congress and the White House (in the form of an executive order) have been criticized by tech policy experts as overly broad or misguided.

  • Some fear that diluting Section 230 protections will make it easier for anyone to get tech platforms to remove all kinds of content that people aim to eliminate.

What's next: Republican attorneys general will meet with President Trump to discuss bias, online censorship and Section 230 Wednesday afternoon.

Go deeper

Mike Allen, author of AM
Dec 28, 2020 - Politics & Policy

How Trump caved on the coronavirus relief bill

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin with Trump in April. Photo: Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images

Getting a cranky, stubborn President Trump to belatedly sign the COVID relief bill, after unemployment benefits had already lapsed, was like being a hostage negotiator, or defusing a bomb.

Driving the news: The deal was closed on a Sunday afternoon phone call with Trump, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy. "This is good," Trump finally said, an official familiar with the call told me. "I should sign this."

Trump signs COVID relief bill, averting government shutdown

Photo: Doug Mills/Getty Images

President Trump signed a bill to extend unemployment benefits and avert a government shutdown, the White House said in an emailed statement Sunday evening.

Details: While Trump signed the current bill providing $600 checks for most Americans hours before a midnight government shutdown deadline, he is continuing his push to bring that amount to $2,000, as Axios reported earlier.

Mayors feel powerless to reduce homelessness

Expand chart
Recreated from 2021 Menino Survey of Mayors; Chart: Jacque Schrag/Axios

America's mayors know their constituents hold them accountable for homelessness, but many don't feel they have the tools or power to fix things, a brand new survey says.

Why it matters: While homelessness has become more acute during the pandemic, city leaders say they lack the money, staff or political support needed to make a meaningful difference.