House Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and ranking member Greg Walden (R-OR) sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, expressing concern over the United States Mexico Canada Agreement’s (USMCA) inclusion of language mirroring Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
Reps. Walden and Pallone, the leading lawmakers on the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee, expressed concern over the USMCA’s inclusion of language mirroring Section 230, which allows for social media companies to censor conservatives and alternative voices without significant legal recourse.
Article 19.17 of the USCMA mirrors the language of Section 230, which according to Reps. Pallone and Walden, “shields online platforms from some of the liability associated with third-party content posted on those platforms.”
The two congressmen stated that they are not taking a position on whether to amend, eliminate, or keep Section 230; however, they find it “inappropriate” to put Section 230 language in the USMCA while “such serious policy discussions” on Section 230 continue.
Walden and Pallone wrote to Lighthizer:
As you may know, the effects of Section 230 and the appropriate role of such a liability shield have become the subject of much debate in recent years. While we take no view on that debate in this letter, we find it inappropriate for the United States to export language mirroring Section 230 while such serious policy discussions are ongoing. For that reason, we do not believe any provision regarding intermediary liability protections of the type created by Article 19.17 are ripe for inclusion in any trade deal going forward. Given that our committee closely oversees Section 230 and all portions of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, we also hope in the future the Office of the United States Trade Representative will consult our Committee in advance of negotiating on these issues.
Walden and Pallone join other congressmen to voice their concerns over the USMCA’s inclusion of language mirroring Section 230.
Reps. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) and Matt Gaetz (R-FL) signed onto a letter urging Lighthizer to remove the language codifying Section 230 in the USCMA in May.
Gosar told Breitbart News:
Tech companies have violated Americans’ privacy, manipulated users, violated consent decrees, and continue to engage in censorship of the public square. They shouldn’t be rewarded with an international liability shield, codified in a permanent trade agreement and possibly future pacts as well. The people’s representatives should have the opportunity to continue to reform the laws that underpin the Internet, including section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
Rep. Gosar has also proposed legislation in July that would prevent social media companies from blocking or removing lawful content on their platforms.
Read Reps. Pallone and Walden’s letter to Lighthizer here.