Should Facebook, Google be accountable for user posts? asks U.S. Attorney General Barr

Should Facebook, Google be accountable for user posts? asks U.S. Attorney General Barr

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Attorney General William Barr on Wednesday questioned whether Facebook, Google and other major online platforms still need the immunity from legal liability that has prevented them from being sued over product their users post.

FILE PICTURE: U.S. Chief Law Officer William Barr announces the findings of the criminal investigation into the Dec. 6, 2019, shootings at the Pensacola Naval Air Station in Florida during a press conference at the Justice Department in Washington, U.S., January 13,2020 REUTERS/Tom Brenner/File Image

” No longer are tech business the underdog upstarts. They have ended up being titans,” Barr stated at a public conference held by the Justice Department to analyze the future of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.

” Offered this altering technological landscape, legitimate concerns have actually been raised about whether Area 230’s broad immunity is essential at least in its present kind,” he stated.

Area 230 states online business such as Facebook Inc, Alphabet Inc’s Google and Twitter Inc can not be treated as the publisher or speaker of details they provide. This mainly excuses them from liability including material posted by users, although they can be held accountable for content that violates criminal or intellectual property law.

Barr’s remarks offered insight into how regulators in Washington are reconsidering the requirement for rewards that once helped online business grow but are increasingly considered as impediments to suppressing online crime, hate speech and extremism.

The increased size and power of online platforms has likewise left customers with less choices, and the lack of feasible alternatives is a pertinent conversation, Barr said, adding that the Section 230 evaluation came out of the Justice Department’s wider take a look at possible anticompetitive practices at tech business.

Lawmakers from both major political parties have called for Congress to alter Section 230 in manner ins which might expose tech companies to more claims or substantially increase their expenses.

Some Republicans have actually revealed concern that Area 230 avoids them from doing something about it versus web services that get rid of conservative political content, while a couple of Democratic leaders have stated the law enables the services to get away penalty for harboring false information and extremist content.

Barr stated the department would not advocate a position at the conference. But he hinted at the idea of enabling the U.S. government to act versus recalcitrant platforms, stating it was “doubtful” whether Section 230 need to prevent the American federal government from suing platforms when it is “acting to safeguard American people.”

Others at the meeting floated various concepts.

The attorney general of the United States of Nebraska, Doug Peterson, kept in mind that the law does not protect platforms from federal criminal prosecution; the immunity helps protect versus civil claims or a state-level prosecution. Peterson stated the exception ought to be expanded to enable state-level action also. Dealing with the tech market, he called it a “quite easy service” that would permit local authorities “to clean up your industry rather of waiting on your market to tidy up itself.”

Matt Schruers, president of the Computer system and Communications Market Association, which counts Google and Facebook among its members, said such a solution would lead to tech giants having to comply with 50 different sets of laws governing user material.

He suggested law enforcement’s energies might be much better invested pursuing the millions of pointers that the tech industry sent over every year, just a little portion of which, he noted, resulted in investigations.

” There appears to be some asymmetry there,” he said.

Others argued that various rules ought to use to various platforms, with bigger websites taking pleasure in less securities than web upstarts.

” With terrific scale comes excellent duty,” said David Chavern, of the News Media Alliance, whose members have bristled as Google and Facebook have actually gutted journalism’s business model.

But other panelists argued that differentiating one website from another might be challenging. Would platforms like Reddit or Wikipedia, which have big reach however shoestring staffs, be counted as huge websites or little ones?

The panelists likewise briefly debated encryption, another area over which Barr has actually pushed the tech market to alter its modus operandi. Facebook, in specific, has drawn the ire of U.S. officials over its strategies to secure its popular messaging platform.

Kate Klonick, a law professor at St. John’s University in New York, advised caution.

” This is a massive norm-setting period,” she said, with any modifications to one of the web’s crucial legal structures likely to draw unforeseen effects. “It’s hard to understand exactly what the ramifications might be.”

Reporting by Nandita Bose and Raphael Satter in Washington; Editing by David Gregorio and Leslie Adler

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