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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

Judge temporarily blocks South Carolina ban on school mask mandates

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster. Photo: Eric Thayer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A federal judge on Tuesday temporarily blocked South Carolina's ban on mask mandates in schools, ruling that it discriminated against students with disabilities and violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Why it matters: As mask bans extend to public schools around the country, parents and disability rights activists have sounded alarm bells. The ruling may signal the outcomes of legal fights playing out across the country.

DeSantis takes legal action against Biden efforts on immigration

Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis took legal action on Tuesday to try to stop the Biden administration's immigration plans.

Why it matters: The Republican governor, who is running for re-election next year and is possibly eyeing a 2024 presidential bid, is picking a high-profile fight with Biden while re-upping his hardline stance on immigration.

Left: Senate's threat "insane"

The famously press-shy Sen. Kyrsten Sinema speaks briefly with reporters on Tuesday. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) lambasted Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) on Tuesday, saying "it's insane" that "one senator" is blocking attempts to settle on a palatable figure for President Biden's proposed $3.5 trillion budget reconciliation package.

Why it matters: The figure is the linchpin to getting progressive support for the companion $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package. Khanna's statement reflects broader dissatisfaction among House progressives with Sinema and her fellow holdout, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).