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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will tell lawmakers his plan for "thoughtful reform" of a key tech liability shield rests on requiring best practices for treating illegal content online.

Why it matters: Tech giants are starting to embrace changes to the foundational law that shields platforms from liability from content users post as lawmakers from both parties threaten it.

Driving the news: In written testimony ahead of the House hearing Thursday with Google, Twitter and Facebook CEOs, Zuckerberg suggested making Section 230 protections for certain types of unlawful content conditional on platforms' ability to meet best practices to fight the spread of the content.

What he's saying: "Instead of being granted immunity, platforms should be required to demonstrate that they have systems in place for identifying unlawful content and removing it," Zuckerberg wrote in the testimony.

  • "Platforms should not be held liable if a particular piece of content evades its detection—that would be impractical for platforms with billions of posts per day—but they should be required to have adequate systems in place to address unlawful content."

How it works: The detection system would be proportionate to platform size, with practices defined by a third party.

  • The best practices would not include "unrelated issues" like encryption or privacy changes, he notes.
  • He also suggested Congress bring more transparency and oversight on how companies make and enforce rules about content that is harmful but still legal.

The big picture: The hearing Thursday will focus on social media companies' role in promoting misinformation and extremism, with the chairman of the House Energy & Commerce Committee telling Axios he wants to take aim at platforms' financial incentive to amplify harmful content.

Our thought bubble: The CEOs of the biggest social media platforms have been subtly hinting they'd accept some sort of modest Section 230 reform since last year, a major change from a few years ago when any change was considered untenable.

  • The thinking on that began to break when a bill that narrowed Section 230 protections in an attempt to curb online sex trafficking passed in 2018. The same trio of CEOs told the Senate Commerce Committee in October 2020 to be extremely careful with any proposed changes to Section 230.
  • The changes Zuckerberg cite have shades of two Section 230 related bills, the EARN IT Act and the PACT Act.

The other side: Smaller tech companies and online sites will balk at any Section 230 changes, even if considered narrow. The biggest companies have the greatest ability to respond and adapt to legislation.

Go deeper

Study: Key Antarctic ice shelf is speeding up its collapse

Pine Island Glacier calves several new icebergs on Feb. 11, 2020, as seen via satellite. Photo: NASA Earth Observatory

The Pine Island Glacier on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is responsible for more than a quarter of Antarctica's contribution to global sea level rise over the past decades. Now, a new study shows it is more vulnerable to rapid melting than thought, because climate change is weakening its natural braking system.

Why it matters: At stake is the future of a glacier containing about 160 trillion tons of ice, which if it were all to melt into the ocean would cause about 1.6 feet of global sea level rise.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
4 hours ago - Economy & Business

Workers are taking power back

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

American workers have been losing power since 1980 — but now the tables are turning.

Why it matters: The 2010s gave us the gig economy and left millions of workers stranded seemingly forever on the precipice of financial ruin. The 2020s could be the decade when workers seize back the reins of power.

10 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Teachers across the U.S. protest laws restricting racism lessons

Thousands of teachers and other educators held protests across the U.S. Saturday against the actions of "at least 15 Republican-led states" that aim to restrict teaching about racism in class, the Washington Post reports.

Driving the news: There were demonstrations in at least 22 cities for the "Day of Action" to raise awareness about moves to limit students' exposure to critical race theory, which links racial discrimination to the nation's foundations and legal system, per Axios' Russell Contreras.