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Three top Democratic senators added to the stack of proposed Section 230 reforms Friday, introducing their own bill that creates narrow carve-outs for a range of online harms, dramatically limits the scope of behaviors that Section 230 covers and takes aim at illicit activity that online platforms directly profit from.
The so-called SAFE TECH Act was introduced Friday by Sens. Mark Warner, Mazie Hirono and Amy Klobuchar. Under the bill, online platforms would not be able to claim Section 230 immunity for alleged violations of federal or state civil rights laws, antitrust laws, cyberstalking laws, human rights laws or civil actions regarding a wrongful death. The law would strip companies of immunity for any speech they were paid to carry, such as ads or marketplace listings, and it would make clear that Section 230 does not shield companies from complying with court orders.
In addition to the specific carve-outs it includes, the SAFE TECH Act attempts to limit Section 230 more broadly, so that it would be applied only to actual speech, not all bad behavior online: for example, illegal gun sales. To achieve this, the bill makes a subtle but meaningful tweak to the part of the law that's often referred to as the "26 words that created the internet."
Under the SAFE TECH Act, the word "information" would be swapped out for the word "speech," narrowing the law and potentially erasing liability protections for a range of other illicit information-sharing that happens on online platforms.