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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.

Updated 22 mins ago - Health

U.K. first nation to clear Pfizer coronavirus vaccine for mass rollout

A health care worker during the phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine trial by the Pfizer and BioNTech in Ankara, Turkey, in October. Photo: Dogukan Keskinkilic/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The United Kingdom's government announced Wednesday it's approved Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine, which "will be made available across the U.K. from next week."

Why it matters: The U.K. has beaten the U.S. to become the first Western country to give emergency approval for a vaccine against a virus that's killed nearly 1.5 million people globally.

2 hours ago - World

NYT: Biden won't immediately remove U.S. tariffs on China

President-elect Joe Biden during an event in Wilmington, Delaware, on Tuesday. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Trump's 25% tariffs imposed on China under the phase one trade deal will remain in place at the start of the new administration, President-elect Biden said in an interview with the New York Times published early Wednesday.

Details: "I'm not going to make any immediate moves, and the same applies to the tariffs," Biden said. He plans to conduct a full review of the current U.S. policy on China and speak with key allies in Asia and Europe to "develop a coherent strategy," he said.

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