Two U.S. senators on Tuesday introduced legislation to tackle the sale of opioids and illicit drugs online through the amendment of a key federal law that grants online companies legal immunity. Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act protects internet companies from liability over content posted by users.
The legislation, titled the ‘See Something, Say Something Online Act’ and proposed by Democratic Senator Joe Manchin and Republican Senator John Cornyn, requires internet platforms to report suspicious activity online to law enforcement or be held liable for that failure.
In a press statement, the senators said that while the protections afforded to the tech sector under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act have given rise to innovation and the U.S. tech sector, it also shields companies from the proliferation of illegal content on their platforms.
The See Something, Say Something Act would change this by:
- Requiring companies to report suspicious activity to law enforcement, similar to the way
that banks are required to report suspicious transactions over $10,000 or others that
might signal criminal activity.
- Creating a system similar to the Bank Secrecy Act by authorizing the creation of an office within the Department of Justice (DOJ) to act as the clearinghouse for these reports, similar to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) within the Department of Treasury.
- Raising the threshold for reporting to serious crimes like illegal drug sales, hate crimes,
murder, or terrorism to ensure that users’ privacy remains safe.
- Requiring that companies must take reasonable steps to prevent or address unlawful
activity and can be held liable if they fail to report criminal activity.
Last week, Trump met with nine Republican state attorneys general to discuss the fate of Section 230, and the Justice Department unveiled a legislative proposal aimed at reforming the same law.