Currently, social media members can't sue social media sites for content posted by other site members. A new bill would change that, remove social media sites from immunity, and make them responsible for our content.
A new law has been proposed by Missouri Republican Senator Josh Hawley. Titled the "Ending Support for Internet Censorship Act," it would amend Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) that provides immunity to social media sites for comments posted by third parties. Up until now, the CDA has given social media giants YouTube, Facebook, and others immunity from all comments and censorship action. Senator Hawley's bill would require companies to allow external audits on their platforms to prove their platforms are impartial if they want to remain government-protected and immune from government censorship.
How would a social media site remain protected and immune from censorship? It must prove that its algorithm is impartial to free speech, even that with which it disagrees, that it's not censoring comments simply out of disagreement with someone's political stance, for example. Companies that would want to undergo external audits to remain immune from censorship would be forced to pay for the external audits under the new Act, and censorship immunity would only remain in place for two years. Every two years, social media sites would have to reapply for immunity and submit themselves to yet another external audit.
The thing to keep in mind here is that the new Ending Support for Internet Censorship Act only applies to big tech companies like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, for example, companies that have 30 million+ active monthly users in the US, more than 300 million active monthly users worldwide, or that make $500 million+ in global revenue each year. Small and medium-sized tech companies would remain government-protected and immune without the need for external audits.
While Senator Hawley's bill starts a process of making social media giants responsible for what is posted on their platforms, more work is needed down the line. This new crackdown on social media sites only applies to the largest tech sites, meaning that smaller tech sites still remain protected and could become the new gathering place for those who don't want their comments censored online. Some five years down the line, the government will eventually need to look into these sites as well to ensure that users are not facing the comment war they faced at large tech sites.
But beyond this, the idea of censorship of social media sites removes the reason these sites exist in the first place: to provide a place where all can post their comments, like 'em or hate 'em. Americans are committed to free speech, so much so that, unless someone shouts "fire" in a crowded movie theater where there is no fire, or commits libel and slander falsely against another individual, they support the right to voice their opinions no matter how "politically incorrect" they may be.
The idea of social media sites submitting themselves to government censorship and having to do so on a regular basis is akin to creating a restrictive regime for American social media, an online dictatorship that is characteristic of other countries but runs counter to what the US has been about all these years.
"[The Computer and Communications Industry Association] has spent decades fighting internet censorship regimes around the world, alongside U.S. diplomats. It would be disappointing to see the country that has been a leader against restrictive regimes create its own government-regulated regime to oversee the political correctness of internet content," said Computer and Communications Industry Association President Ed Black in a statement.