(New York, N.Y.) – Counter Extremism Project (CEP) Executive Director David Ibsen and CEP Senior Advisor Dr. Hany Farid released the following statement today in response to proposed changes announced by the U.S. Department of Justice to roll back tech companies’ broad legal protections under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA). The Justice Department’s proposal is a legislative plan that would have to be adopted by Congress and would, among other things, remove companies’ immunity in cases involving terrorist content.
“CEP has long called for the removal of tech companies’ blanket protections from liability for harmful content posted by third parties. The Justice Department’s actions represent an important effort to instill a duty of care and make online platforms more responsible for removing extremist and terrorist content from their sites. Such measures are reasonable, extremely necessary, and reflect a significant frustration with the tech industry’s ongoing inability to consistently remove extremist content from their platforms.
“For years, tech companies have made unfulfilled commitments to lawmakers, advertisers, the media, and the public to improve their content moderation policies. Instead of applying measures to stymie the spread of extremist and terrorist material online, they have relied on public relations-driven spin tactics and the blanket liability protections afforded to them by Section 230 to deflect, delay, and dissemble—all in an effort to forestall commonsense government regulation.
“The ongoing presence of extremist content online continues to prove that tech companies are unwilling or unable to effectively control the horrific and dangerous content that continues to proliferate on their sites. This was especially prevalent in the New Zealand Christchurch shootings, in which the attacker’s livestream video was uploaded and subsequently reuploaded millions of times across the Internet. This action by the Justice Department is a necessary step to update the legal framework that ensures both a functioning Internet environment and the safety and well-being of society.”