DoJ asks Congress to limit protections for social media companies

Attorney General William Barr speaks out against Section 230.

Elijah Nouvelage / reuters

The Department of Justice (DoJ) is asking Congress to adopt a new law that would make Facebook, Google and Twitter liable for the way they moderate content, The Washington Post reports. The legislation would alter the controversial Section 230 so that tech companies would be accountable when they “unlawfully censor speech and when they knowingly facilitate criminal activity online.”

“For too long Section 230 has provided a shield for online platforms to operate with impunity,” Attorney General William Barr said in a statement. “Ensuring that the internet is a safe, but also vibrant, open and competitive environment is vitally important to America."

Politicians have been poking at Section 230 for months. The DoJ doesn’t typically weigh in on legislation, but now, Barr is asking Congress to roll back critical aspects of Section 230. Not only is that unusual, it could add to speculation that some politicians are attempting to “bully tech companies into political submission,” as Senator Brian Schatz previously put it.

Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers have been looking for ways to alter Section 230 and better regulate Big Tech in general. But President Trump also seems to have a personal vendetta against social media platforms. In addition to accusing Facebook and Twitter of having an anti-conservative bias, Trump criticized Twitter after it flagged and hid one of his tweets “for making misleading health claims that could potentially dissuade people from participation in voting.” Earlier this year, shortly after Twitter hid another Trump tweet for glorifying violence, the President signed an executive order targeting social media platforms.

It’s unclear what the future holds for Section 230, but with a push from Barr and the DoJ, reform could arrive sooner rather than later.