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Reddit co-founder and CEO Steve Huffman. Photo: Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Lawmakers mulling changes to the law that shields Facebook, Reddit and other online platforms from liability over user-generated content found some bipartisan common ground during a House Energy & Commerce joint subcommittee hearing Wednesday.

Why it matters: Technology companies say changing the law that protects online platforms — Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act — is an existential threat to their business models and the internet itself. But both Republicans and Democrats agreed the platforms are not doing enough to police themselves when it comes to removing harmful content from their sites.

Here are two main areas where the parties seemed to find some level of consensus on Wednesday.

1. Trade agreements: Republicans and Democrats both voiced concerns that the U.S. appears to be including language similar to Section 230 in trade agreements, with Energy & Commerce Committee ranking member Greg Walden (R-Ore.) offering particularly pointed criticism.

  • “We’re getting blown off on this, and I’m tired of it,” Walden said after referencing a letter he and committee chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) sent to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. “Clearly they’re not listening to our committee or us.”

2. Repeal is unlikely: Republicans and Democrats also agreed they don’t want to gut or repeal Section 230, but they warned Reddit CEO Steve Huffman and Google global head of intellectual property policy Katherine Oyama that companies need to step up their online content moderation efforts.

  • “We all recognize that content moderation online is lacking in a number of ways and that we all need to address this issue better,” said Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.), chairman of the communications subcommittee. “If not you, who are the platforms and experts in this technology, and you put that on our shoulders, you may see a law that you don’t like very much and that has a lot of unintended consequences for the internet.”

Reality check: Despite some agreement among lawmakers that there are problems with online content moderation, there’s a variety of approaches to addressing the issue and immediate action is unlikely.

  • One idea, from Boston University law professor Danielle Citron, would revise Section 230 so the protection is conditioned on whether the companies have reasonable content moderation practices.
  • But Corynne McSherry, legal director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, called the reasonable standard “terrifying” because it would have to be determined by courts. “That means, as a practical matter, especially for small businesses, a lot of litigation risk as courts try to figure out what’s reasonable.”

Go deeper

The hard math behind America's labor shortage

Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Congressional Budget Office; Chart: Axios Visuals

Yes, the pandemic has created unusual temporary labor market dynamics. But in the bigger picture, the 2010s were a golden age for companies seeking cheap labor. The 2020s are not.

The big picture: In the 2010s, the massive millennial generation was entering the workforce, the massive baby bo0m generation was still hard at work, and there was a multi-year hangover from the deep recession caused by the global financial crisis.

Advocates fret Roe v. Wade's 49th anniversary could be its last

Photo: Leigh Vogel/Getty Images for Women's March Inc

As Saturday marks the 49th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court's landmark decision that legalized abortion access in the U.S., advocates warn the ruling is "more at risk now than ever."

The big picture: The Supreme Court in December heard a challenge to a Mississippi 15-week abortion ban that could throw Roe's survival into question, or at least narrow its scope.

Updated 14 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds — Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies — Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker

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