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We use cookies and other tracking technologies to improve your browsing experience on our site, show personalized content and targetedanalyze site traffic, and understand where our audiences come from. To learn more or opt-out, read our Cookie Policy. This guide will be updated as events warrant. Amy Klobuchar. up here! This protects websites from lawsuits if a user posts something illegal, although there are exceptions for copyright violations, sex work-related material, and violations of federal criminal law. Chris Cox R-CA crafted Section so website owners could moderate sites without worrying about legal liability.

The law is particularly vital for social media networks, but it covers many sites and services, including news outlets with comment sections — like The Verge. Critics argue that its broad protections let powerful companies ignore real harm to users.

In the United States, the First Amendment prohibits the government from restricting most forms of speech, which would include many proposals to force tech companies to moderate content. A law that required companies to moderate content based on the political viewpoint it expresses, for example, would likely be struck down as unconstitutional. Private companies can also create rules to restrict speech if they so choose.

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This is why Facebook and Twitter ban hate speech, for example, even though it is legally permitted in the United States. These moderation rules are protected by the First Amendment as well. This issue is distinct from discussions over whether platforms should be liable for what their users post, though it often gets lumped in with the discussion. In MayPresident Donald Trump released an executive order targeting Section and social media.

He reportedly drafted the order a year earlier, but it was tabled following confusion from regulators and legal experts, until a feud with Twitter revived the idea.

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The order asked regulators to redefine Section more narrowly, bypassing the authority of Congress and the courts. Trump has broadly backed Republican efforts to change the law in Congress. President-elect Joe Biden is less vocal than Trump about Section In JanuaryBiden proposed revoking Section completely. It is propagating falsehoods they know to be false. Following the passage of the bills, websites began to censor parts of their platforms — not because they were currently hosting prostitutionbut because of the faint possibility that some third party could do so in the future.

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The laws are why Craigslist no longer has a Personals section. Now, sex workers say that they have broadly been forced offline, making their work far less safe. Prostitution-related crime in San Francisco alone — including violence against workers — more than tripled. Democrats have called for a study of the harms created for sex workers by the law.

There is little to no evidence that the law has had much of an effect on reducing online sex trafficking. In Februarythe US Department of Justice held a day-long workshop to discuss ways in which Section could be further amended. Proposals to reform the law generally fall into two. This would likely have the intended side effect of weakening encryption for private messaging.

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This approach is often bundled with broader data privacy and tech regulation proposals, which are covered in more detail in a separate guide. To date, legislators have paid less attention to online marketplaces like Airbnb, which also benefits from the liability shield created by Section Democrats have largely been concerned with getting platforms to remove more content because of the harms associated with hate speech, terrorism, and harassment. The most serious Republican effort to rewrite Section has come not from Congress, but from the Department of Justice.

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In JuneAttorney General William Barr released a series of recommendations for how Section might be reformedplaying off a string of workshops earlier in the year. The recommendations include new restrictions on cyberstalking and terrorism, which would likely result in more proactive moderation efforts, along with measures intended to punish arbitrary or discriminatory moderation. A smaller faction of Republicans has focused entirely on restricting moderation immunity, punishing platforms that moderate in a biased or otherwise discriminatory way.

More extreme versions of that approach include Rep. Neither proposal has so far advanced. Among tech platforms, Facebook has led the call for more regulation. In FebruaryCEO Mark Zuckerberg said the company ought to be regulated as something in between a telecommunications company and a newspaper. That same day, Facebook released a white paper laying out the approach it would prefer regulators take. The approach rests on a handful of core assumptions: that platforms are global and thus subject to many different laws and competing cultural values; that they are intermediaries for speech rather than traditional publishers; that they will change constantly for competitive reasons; and that they will always get some moderation decisions wrong.

Facebook argues that the government could hold tech platforms able for certain key metrics: holding violating posts below a certain of views, for example, or setting a mandatory median response time for removing them. But they note that any of these efforts could create perverse incentives. If platforms are required to remove certain posts within 24 hours, for example, they are likely to simply stop looking at older posts while they focus on posts that are still within the hour window.

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