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Movement in Washington on Section 230

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  1. Policy
There's growing interest in the nation's capital in revising Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

Various lawmakers, government officials and a Supreme Court justice continue to signal a willingness to revisit Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, the law that gives internet platforms some immunity from liability for content posted by others on their sites.

As we reported earlier this month, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas issued a lengthy statement in response to a cert denial in Malwarebytes v. Enigma Software Group, arguing that Section 230 is ripe for review — and narrowing — by the Court.

Ajit Pai, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, also stated that he intends to move forward with a rulemaking to clarify Section 230. To facilitate this effort, the Senate Commerce Committee has scheduled a fast-track confirmation hearing to fill an upcoming open seat on the FCC that currently belongs to Commissioner Mike O’Rielly, who views the First Amendment as an obstacle to direct online content regulation by the government. The hearing on nominee Nathan Simington, a Commerce Department official, is scheduled for Nov. 10.

On Wednesday, the Senate Commerce Committee heard testimony from the CEOs of Twitter, Facebook and Google in a hearing titled, “Does Section 230’s Sweeping Immunity Enable Big Tech Bad Behavior?” During the hearing, Republican senators pushed the companies on content moderation as well as decisions to provide or withhold ad services to certain actors. Democrats raised concerns about platform effects on local news outlets and politicization of Section 230 reform. The executives largely argued for more transparency, with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg even agreeing that Section 230 reform is needed — as long as the revisions only touch on transparency matters.

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The Technology and Press Freedom Project at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press uses integrated advocacy — combining the law, policy analysis, and public education — to defend and promote press rights on issues at the intersection of technology and press freedom, such as reporter-source confidentiality protections, electronic surveillance law and policy, and content regulation online and in other media. TPFP is directed by Reporters Committee attorney Gabe Rottman. He works with Stanton Foundation National Security/Free Press Legal Fellow Grayson Clary and Technology and Press Freedom Project Legal Fellow Mailyn Fidler.

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