U.S. Sens. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., chairman of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, and Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., today introduced the Online Freedom and Viewpoint Diversity Act to modify Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The legislation would clarify the original intent of the law and increase accountability for content moderation practices.

“For too long, social media platforms have hidden behind Section 230 protections to censor content that deviates from their beliefs,” said Wicker. “These practices should not receive special protections in our society where freedom of speech is at the core of our nation’s values. Our legislation would restore power to consumers by promoting full and fair discourse online.”

“I’m very pleased to be working with Senators Wicker and Blackburn to bring about much-needed reform of Section 230,” said Graham. “Social media companies are routinely censoring content that to many, should be considered valid political speech. This reform proposal addresses the concerns of those who feel like their political views are being unfairly suppressed.”

“Big Tech companies have stretched their liability shield past its limits, and the national discourse now suffers because of it. Today’s internet is a different online product from what was available in 1996; the polished megaplatforms we associate with online research and debate exert unprecedented influence over how Americans discover new information, and what information is available for discovery,” said Blackburn. “Moreover, the contentious nature of current conversations provides perverse incentive for these companies to manipulate the online experience in favor of the loudest voices in the room. There exists no meaningful alternative to these powerful platforms, which means there will be no accountability for the devastating effects of this ingrained ideological bias until Congress steps in and brings liability protections into the modern era.”

The Online Freedom and Viewpoint Diversity Act would:

· Clarify when Section 230’s liability protections apply to instances where online platforms choose to restrict access to certain types of content;

· Condition the content moderation liability shield on an objective reasonableness standard. In order to be protected from liability, a tech company may only restrict access to content on its platform where it has “an objectively reasonable belief” that the content falls within a certain, specified category;

· Remove “otherwise objectionable” and replace it with concrete terms, including “promoting terrorism,” content that is determined to be “unlawful,” and content that promotes “self-harm.”

· Clarify that the definition of “information content provider” includes instances in which a person or entity editorializes or affirmatively and substantively modifies the content created or developed by another person or entity but does not include mere changes to format, layout, or basic appearance of such content.

Click here to read the bill.

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Release from U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.