(New York, N.Y.) – This week, Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued comments regarding regulation of the tech industry, specifically, changes to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA). In an interview with Recode, Pelosi said, “230 is a gift to them, and I don’t think they are treating it with the respect that they should… For the privilege of 230, there has to be a bigger sense of responsibility on it, and it is not out of the question that that could be removed.”
Speaker Pelosi’s comments reflect a growing worldwide frustration with the tech industry’s reliance on spin tactics to deflect, delay, and dissemble—all in an effort to forestall government regulation. In spite of tech’s promises to lawmakers, advertisers, the media, and the public at large, the ongoing presence of extremist content online continues to prove that tech companies are unwilling or unable to effectively control the horrific and dangerous content that continues to proliferate on their sites. Clearly, governments must step in in the interest of protecting their citizens.
On April 4, the Counter Extremism Project (CEP) urged tech giants to support amending Section 230 of the CDA. In particular, Section 230 must be amended to remove companies’ blanket protections from liability for content posted by third-parties on their platforms when that content is incontrovertibly known to be extremist in nature or otherwise harmful. This will expose companies to civil liability for content they host and incentivize them to more closely monitor their platforms. A similar amendment was signed into law to ensure that the CDA would not be used to shield violators of sex trafficking laws.
Recently, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, made vague suggestions for governments and regulators to become involved in censoring harmful content online. Yet, time and time again, society has witnessed tech executives say one thing publicly, then behind closed doors, lobby relentlessly against practical measures to combat the “worst of the worst” extremist content. Speaker Pelosi, like legislators in Australia, the E.U. and the U.K., have simply run out of patience and are taking action. Recent government efforts to curb inadequacies in the tech industry are crucial in the battle against online extremism, and CEP will continue to support these efforts.