U.S. to discuss whether online platforms should be liable for users’ posts

The U.S. Justice Department said on Thursday it will hold a public meeting on Feb. 19 to discuss the future of a federal law which largely exempts online platforms from legal liability for the material their users post.

The meeting will examine the future of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which provides immunity to companies such as Facebook, Alphabet’s Google and Twitter for content posted by users, although companies can still be held liable for content that violates criminal or intellectual property law.

The meeting titled ‘Section 230 – Nurturing Innovation or Fostering Unaccountability?’ will explore the expansive interpretation of the law by courts, it’s impact on citizens, businesses and will look at whether improvements to the law should be made, the Justice Department said in a statement.

“Now that the industry has matured, valid questions have been raised regarding the broad scope of Section 230 and whether the immunity is still required in its current form,” the statement said.

Lawmakers from both the Republican and Democratic parties have called for Congress to change Section 230 in ways that could expose tech companies to more lawsuits or significantly increase their costs.

Some Republicans have expressed concern that Section 230 prevents them from taking action against internet services that remove conservative political content, while a few Democratic leaders have said the law allows the services to escape punishment for harboring misinformation and extremist content.

Earlier this week, Representative Jan Schakowsky, the chair of a key U.S. House Committee on consumer protection, said she is exploring legislation around Section 230, focusing on online content posted on elections.

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