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Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) Photo: Al-Drago-Pool/Getty Images

At the request of the Trump administration, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) is working on new legislation targeting the tech industry's liability shield, a source familiar with the effort told Axios.

Why it matters: The Hawley bill will be an additional threat against platforms like Facebook and Twitter following President Donald Trump's executive order aimed at curbing their legal protections from content posted by users.

Details: The legislation would open platforms to legal liability if they enforce their terms of services in unequal or uneven ways, including by making politically motivated moderation decisions.

  • That would be a reversal from the broad immunity from lawsuits over both user-posted content and making moderation calls like taking down posts and banning user accounts that platforms have under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996.
  • Hawley and his office have had multiple conversations with senior White House and Justice Department on revisiting Section 230, the source said. They have shared draft text of the measure with other Senate offices seeking cosponsors, and the bill could be introduced as early as next week.

The big picture: The Trump administration and others on the right claim that online platforms have a heavier hand in moderating conservative views online.

  • Democrats too have been critical of the protections Section 230 offers, but want to see platforms better moderate false or harmful content online.

Go deeper

Sep 1, 2020 - World

Facebook threatens to pull news from Australia if new law passes

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Facebook said Monday that it will block users in Australia from sharing news on Facebook and Instagram if a controversial law forcing tech giants like Facebook and rival Google to pay publishers to distribute portions of their content passes this fall.

Why it matters: This is Facebook's last-ditch effort to stop the law's enactment, which it says will harm publishers more than itself. The tech giant contends that the Australian law's broad payment terms are likely to end up requiring Facebook to overpay for a relatively modest amount of content, and the social network is also wary of setting a broad precedent.

Home confinees face imminent return to prison

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Thousands of prisoners who've been in home confinement for as long as a year because of the pandemic face returning to prison when it's over — unless President Biden rescinds a last-minute Trump Justice Department memo.

Why it matters: Most prisoners were told they would not have to come back as they were released early with ankle bracelets. Now, their lives are on hold while they wait to see whether or when they may be forced back behind bars. Advocates say about 4,500 people are affected.

The "essential" committee that still doesn't exist

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images

Nearly five months after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced the creation of the bipartisan Select Committee on Economic Disparity and Fairness in Growth, it's not been formed much less met.

Why it matters: Select committees are designed to address urgent matters, but the 117th Congress is now nearly one-quarter complete without this panel assembling. When she announced this committee, Pelosi described it as an "essential force" to "combat the crisis of income and wealth disparity in America."

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