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E&C leaders propose deadline to sunset Section 230

May 13, 2024
Illustration of a folder labeled 230 on the edge of a computer trash can

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

House Energy and Commerce Committee leaders Sunday released a draft bill to force big tech to help revamp their liability shield or face its elimination.

Why it matters: Lawmakers for years have tried to get rid of or overhaul Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, contending that tech companies should be held responsible for the activity that takes place on their platforms.

  • Members from both sides of the aisle are concerned about how social media is impacting the mental health and safety of minors online.

Driving the news: The latest attempt from Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Ranking Member Frank Pallone would end Section 230 on Dec. 31, 2025, leaving 18 months to hash out a new legal framework for platforms.

What they're saying: In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, CMR and Pallone said that "Section 230 is now poisoning the healthy online ecosystem it once fostered."

  • "Big Tech companies are exploiting the law to shield them from any responsibility or accountability as their platforms inflict immense harm on Americans, especially children."

The other side: The proposal prompted the usual arguments from industry and free speech advocates, including that getting rid of Section 230 would lead to censorship and a flood of litigation to the benefit of trial lawyers.

  • "This isn't a serious discussion about Section 230. It's holding Section 230 hostage without any replacement on the table," Chamber of Progress CEO Adam Kovacevich said in a press release.

The big picture: Recent Supreme Court cases have left Section 230 untouched, punting the issue back to Congress where many proposals have hit a dead end.

  • Differences among Democrats and Republicans regarding what is responsible content moderation versus alleged censorship of conservative views threaten to continue stymieing the debate.

What's next: E&C spokesperson Sean Kelly said the committee will follow regular order on the bill, including a legislative hearing, subcommittee markup and full committee markup.

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