DOJ to Propose Rolling Back Big Tech’s Legal Immunity

Mark Zuckerberg F8 2019 Keynote by Anthony Quintano is licensed under Flickr CC BY 2.0
The Department of Justice is preparing proposals to roll back the legal immunities enjoyed by Big Tech companies under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA), in measures that will be announced as early as Wednesday, sources told the Wall Street Journal.

The Justice Department is set to propose a rollback of legal protections that online platforms have enjoyed for more than two decades, in an effort to make tech companies more responsible in how they police their content, according to a Trump administration official.

Section 230 gives Big Tech companies immunity from lawsuits arising from user-generated content. If a person is defamed on Google, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or other big tech platforms like Reddit, those platforms are not legally liable for the content like a traditional publisher might be. This allows social media platforms to host billions of posts from users without a potentially crippling legal risk.

As Big Tech platforms have grown increasingly interested in censoring content posted by their users, however, many lawmakers have argued that they are behaving like traditional publishers, censoring and editing and approving their users’ posts. As such, a growing number of lawmakers have argued that the legal immunities of Section 230 should be contingent on platforms maintaining a hands-off approach to the speech of their users.