Lindsey Graham, Richard Blumenthal Interested in Amending Section 230 to Combat Sex Trafficking

US Senator Lindsey Graham (R), R-South Carolina, and US Senator Richard Blumenthal (L), D-Connecticut, explain Extreme Risk Protection Orders on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on March 8, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said Tuesday he would support amending Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act to combat online sex trafficking. Section 230 allows for big tech companies to censor conservative and alternative voices without significant legal recourse.

The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing Tuesday titled “Protecting Innocence in a Digital World” in which Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said that he would back efforts to limit social media companies’ liability if they do not comply with industry best practices to tackle sex trafficking.

Chairman Graham said, “Things would change tomorrow if you could get sued,” suggesting that social media companies would do more to curb sex trafficking if tech companies were opened to more liability.

Last year, Congress passed legislation limiting Section 230 to help combat online sex trafficking.

The South Carolina senator said that he would prefer to collect best practices from industry, government, and non-profits and then audit companies’ compliance as the basis for granting social media companies immunity. Graham said that the policies would focus on best practices for protecting children from online exploitation; however, the list of protections could expand to more common complaints about online content.

“You can have these liability protections because we’d like to save the industry and protect it for competition, but you have to earn it,” Graham added.

“As long as you keep up-to-date with what is expected in terms of best business practices you can’t be sued,” Sen. Graham said.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) also backed the idea of amending Section 230, suggesting that the statute serves as “the biggest obstacle to accountability.”

“The immunity, which is so broad and uniquely encompassing by many of the tech companies, is part of the reason that they are failing to do more,” said Blumenthal. The Connecticut Democrat said he remains open to working with Graham on a bill.

Sen. Graham’s proposed model for cracking down on sex trafficking and protecting children from sexual exploitation mirrors a bill introduced by Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), the Ending Support for Internet Censorship Act, which would audit social media companies for bias, and if they find bias in either the big tech companies’ algorithm or content moderation process, they would lose their Section 230 immunity.

In response to Sen. Graham’s call for amending Section 230, Hawley said, “It’s time.”

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who has also been critical of big tech, said in an interview Tuesday that he does not want a federal “speech police” to answer the question of Internet censorship; however, he would like to end Congress’ “subsidy” to big tech companies via amending Section 230.

Sen. Cruz’s office told Breitbart News that he continues to review Sen. Hawley’s legislation, which could serve as one potential solution to Google, Facebook, and other tech companies’ censorship of conservative and alternative voices on the Internet.

Sen. Cruz suggested during a hearing in April that three potential solutions to online censorship include:

  1. Amending Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
  2. Using antitrust to address big tech’s dominant status on the Internet.
  3. Addressing potential cases of fraud and deception.

Sean Moran is a congressional reporter for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter @SeanMoran3.

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