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Sen. Ron Wyden (left) proposed ammendments to a bill led by Sen. Rob Portman's (center) among others. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

The Senate overwhelmingly agreed to send a bill to President Trump’s desk on Wednesday that will make it possible for victims of sex trafficking to sue web platforms if they knowingly facilitate the crime through the content they host.

Why it matters: The bill — which large platforms eventually supported under pressure — is the first real legislative blow to social media, and could be a sign of more to come.

The details:

  • The bill makes a website liable if it knowingly facilitates web trafficking, weakening the shield from legal risk that had traditionally protected sites from being sued over user-generated content.
  • Sen. Ron Wyden, a longtime critic of the bill, withdrew an amendment ensuring that platforms that take action to stop trafficking don't incur more risk by doing so. He proposed an amendment that increased funding to prosecutors working on trafficking, but it failed to get added to the bill.
  • Wyden said the bill would send online trafficking activity to the so-called dark web and that removing liability protections for websites would put "vulnerable groups and small startups" at risk.

What’s next: The president is expected to sign the bill.

Go deeper

18 mins ago - Health

Pfizer-BioNTech: Booster doses more effective at blocking Omicron

Prepared doses of the BioNtech-Pfizer Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine in Germany on Dec. 7. Photo: Thomas Kienzle/AFP via Getty Images

Pfizer and BioNTech said Wednesday that two doses of their COVID-19 vaccine were significantly less effective at neutralizing the Omicron variant in early lab tests, but a three-dose regimen was more effective.

Why it matters: Omicron, which has been labeled a variant of concern by the World Health Organization after being identified by scientists in South Africa last month, has forced vaccine makers to reassess the effectiveness of their vaccines against this specific new form of coronavirus.

Mike Allen, author of AM
24 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Biden unveils "Building a Better America" branding

President Biden speaks on infrastructure while visiting a bridge in Woodstock, N.H., last month. Photo: John Tully/Getty Images

President Biden today launched a new website and unveiled bold new branding as part of a nationwide tour to sell the benefits of his infrastructure package.

Why it matters: The White House says passage of the new law shows the ability to "forge bipartisan consensus and prove our democracy can deliver big wins" even in these toxic times.

2 hours ago - World

Olaf Scholz sworn in as German chancellor, succeeding Merkel

Incoming German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is sworn in by Bundestag President Bärbel Bas in Berlin today. Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Social Democrat Olaf Scholz was sworn in as chancellor of Germany on Wednesday, succeeding Angela Merkel after 16 years and launching a new era of German and European politics.

Why it matters: Scholz, a center-left pragmatist who served as finance minister and vice chancellor in Merkel's last government, will lead Europe's largest economy in a coalition with the environmentalist Greens and pro-business Free Democrats.