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Hawley Bill Would Erode Tech’s Liability Protections

Sen. Josh Hawley in his latest salvo against the tech industry introduced a bill Wednesday that would strip away legal protections for large tech companies under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act unless they submit to external audits. Those audits would be done by the FTC, which under the bill would have to vote by a supermajority of its commissioners that the company’s algorithms and moderation practices are “politically neutral.”

The bill, which was introduced without any co-sponsors, will surely make the FTC wary. Mr. Hawley, a freshman senator from Missouri, has made criticizing big tech companies a major part of his agenda and has repeatedly said firms like Google and Facebook shouldn’t get a “sweetheart deal” from the government protecting them from liability from what third parties post. The tech industry already has come out against the bill.

Section 230 was passed in 1996 so that internet companies could moderate what they see as harmful content without fear of being sued. There is a sentiment among lawmakers in both parties that it needs to be amended. It isn’t likely that Mr. Hawley’s bill will be the one that makes it over the finish line, but it won’t be the last we hear on this topic.

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