The Department of Justice (DOJ) and some republican lawmakers on Wednesday introduced a bill to empower Americans to sue Big Tech companies who act in bad faith by selectively censoring political speech and hiding content created by their competitors.
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.)Introduced the bill, and it was cosponsored by Senators Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), and Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.)
Senator Hawley’s bill would prohibit Big Tech companies from receiving Section 230 immunity unless they update their terms of service to promise to operate in good faith and pay a $5,000 fine (or actual damages, if higher) plus attorney’s fees if they violate that promise.
The Limiting Section 230 Immunity to Good Samaritans Act provides that Big Tech companies who want to receive section 230 immunity must bind themselves contractually to a duty of good faith.
Under this bill:
- Users could sue the major Big Tech companies for breaching their contractual duty of good faith;
- The duty of good faith would contractually prohibit Big Tech from:
- Discriminating when enforcing the terms of service they write (just like police and prosecutors are not supposed to discriminate when enforcing the law);
- Failing to honor their promises;
- Big Tech companies who breach their duty of good faith would have to pay $5,000 or actual damages, whichever is higher, plus attorney’s fees to each user who prevails.
“For too long, Big Tech companies like Twitter, Google and Facebook have used their power to silence political speech from conservatives without any recourse for users,” said Hawley in a prepared statement.
“Section 230 has been stretched and rewritten by courts to give these companies outlandish power over speech without accountability,” he added.
The Justice Department also put forward a proposal Wednesday, urging Congress to dramatically reduce Section 230’s scope.
The proposal would deny Section 230 immunity for content dealing with child exploitation, terrorism and cyber-stalking. It also recommends stripping protections from platforms that facilitate or solicit unlawful content or activity by third parties.