Another Section 230 Reform Bill Tabled in the US Senate: PACT

Senate Democrats have tabled a Section 230 bill. It is known as the Platform Accountability and Consumer Transparency Act (PACT).

With so much talk about Section 230, it seems interesting that Democratic senators are now tabling their own vision of Section 230 reforms. This came in the form of the Platform Accountability and Consumer Transparency Act, or PACT. The legislation is reportedly aimed at requiring platforms to be transparent about takedowns. The legislation also apparently doesn’t contain the requirements pushed by the Trump executive order.

According to Reuters, Democrats are calling this legislation a scalpel rather than a jackhammer. From Reuters:

“My own judgment is that the conversation in Congress about Section 230 has been stupid and polarized,” Schatz told reporters on a media call. “Our approach is a scalpel rather than jackhammer,” he said.

The bill would require tech platforms to explain their content moderation practices in a way that is accessible to consumers, form a complaint system that notifies users of moderation decisions within 14 days and allows them to appeal such decisions.

It would offer no immunity for known illegal content if companies are notified and when federal regulators pursue civil actions.

Engadget notes that the legislation would also explore the possibility of an FTC-run whistleblower program as well. From Engadget:

The bill would limit Section 230’s ability to to protect companies from actions by federal regulators and state attorneys general, and would have the Government Accountability Office examine the possibility of an FTC-run whistleblower program for online platforms.

If all goes well, this would hold sites to task when they’re abusing the law or are clearly aware of users’ illegal activity. A site that thrives on user uploads of pirated material would have a more difficult time avoiding legal action. This wouldn’t weaken encryption (as the EARN IT Act and other initiatives might), however, and it wouldn’t force sites to carry content.

There’s no certainty this bill and its expected House counterpart will survive Congress and become law. Schatz pointed out that this is not only a bipartisan bill, but is sponsored by both the chairman and ranking member of the Senate committee. It might gain traction where single-party bills have fallen short.

So far, we haven’t heard any reaction from the platforms or digital rights advocates about this legislation. We’ll continue to monitor the situation to see if any reaction do crop up.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.



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