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Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

For all the talk of antitrust investigations, the bigger threat to tech platforms like Google and Facebook is an intensifying call from Congress to revamp a law that shields them and other web companies from legal liability for users' posts.

Driving the news: House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff today joined a motley group of policymakers calling to reconsider the legal protections afforded to tech platforms. It's a broadening of a line of attack that caught fire last year when a new law made it easier to sue tech platforms for hosting sex-trafficking ads.

The big picture: Social media companies are taking hits from every direction for allowing hate speech, false information and now fake video to mushroom on their sites. But legally, they're in the clear even when hosting the most odious content.

Be smart, per Axios' David McCabe: Lawmakers have been threatening broad changes to the immunity law for over a year but haven't advanced any legislative proposals doing so. At this point, it's more potent leverage than it is something they've been willing to get moving.

Details: Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act protects companies that carry user-generated content — like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other sites — from bearing legal liability for what their users post.

  • It's become a cornerstone of the modern internet since it was passed in 1996, freeing companies from having to closely police every sentence, video or photo published on their platforms.
  • But critics say it's allowed them to shirk a societal responsibility to keep harmful and false information from spreading online.

After a hearing today on national security implications of deepfakes — AI-manipulated videos — Schiff told reporters:

"If the social media companies can't exercise a proper standard of care when it comes to a whole variety of fraudulent or illicit content, then we have to think about whether that immunity still makes sense. These are not nascent industries or companies that are struggling for viability — they're now behemoths, and we need them to act responsibly."

One idea for how to update the law comes from Danielle Citron, a University of Maryland law professor who has written extensively about deepfakes and was a witness at today's hearing.

  • "It shouldn't be a free pass," Citron said of the immunity. "It should be conditioned on reasonable content moderation practices."
  • That would mean that companies like Facebook could get in legal trouble if someone posted a defamatory fake video and the company didn't act reasonably to take it down or tell users it was manipulated.
  • The "reasonable person" standard is commonly applied across law.

What's next: If this idea picks up steam again in Congress, expect Big Tech — including any site that hosts user comments and reviews, user-written ads, or videos and photos — to fight tooth and nail to keep its Section 230 immunity.

Go deeper

Updated 31 mins ago - Sports

Swimmer Chase Kalisz first American to win Tokyo Olympics gold medal

Chase Kalisz of Team United States celebrates after winning the Men's 400m Individual Medley Final on day two of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre in Tokyo, Japan. Photo: Al Bello/Getty Images

Swimmer Chase Kalisz has become the first Team United States Olympian to win gold at the Tokyo Games.

The big picture: The Rio 2016 silver medalist's winning time in the men's 400 meters Individual Medley Final was 4 minutes 9.42 seconds. His teammate Jay Litherland took silver, .86 seconds behind him. Moments later, Kieran Smith grabbed a third medal for the U.S. when he won bronze in the 400-meter freestyle.

Go deeper: Full Axios coverage

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

DOJ won't investigate nursing home deaths in N.Y. and 2 other states

People who've lost loved ones due to COVID-19 while they were in New York nursing homes attend a March protest and vigil in New York City. As of this month, Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The Department of Justice has decided not to launch a civil rights investigation into whether policies in New York, Pennsylvania and Michigan contributed to pandemic deaths in nursing homes, according to a letter sent to Republicans.

Why it matters: The Trump DOJ requested data from the three states plus New Jersey last August "amid still-unanswered questions about whether some states, especially New York, inadvertently worsened the pandemic death toll by requiring nursing homes to accept residents previously hospitalized for COVID-19," per AP.

Former Blizzard CEO says he "failed” women at the studio

Image: Neville Elder / Getty Images

Mike Morhaime, who co-founded and worked at video game studio Blizzard for 28 years, has apologized publicly for toxic work conditions at his former studio, which is now the subject of a discrimination and harassment lawsuit by the state of California.

Why it matters: Morhaime is no longer at Blizzard, but was its leader for most of its existence and therefore was in charge when much of what is alleged in California’s suit would have occurred.