Hill Advises Biden Administration Against Sec. 230 Language in Treaties

Capitol Hill
(Image credit: Architect of the Capitol)

The Biden Administration has received a bipartisan warning from Congress not to include Sec. 230-related language in any trade agreements.

That came in a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Ambassador Katherine Tai from House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and ranking member Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), according to a copy obtained by Multichannel News.

Sec. 230 is the law (the last vestige of the Communications Decency Act of 1996) that gives websites immunity from liability for the third-party content they host on their sites.

It is the provision that allowed Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms to grow without fear of endless liability lawsuits over their content, whether it’s offensive material they failed to take down or content they concluded was not fit for their platforms and did scrub.

It has been the subject of major debate in Washington, including critics on both sides of the aisle and an attempt by former President Donald Trump to get the FCC to regulate online content by tweaking the section.

"As you may know, the effects of Section 230 and the appropriate role of such a liability shield have become the subject of much debate in recent years," they wrote Tai. "While we take no view on that debate in this letter, we find it inappropriate for the United States to export language mirroring Section 230 while such serious policy discussions are ongoing."

Also Read: Sec. 230, When Policy Becomes Personal

They also want Tai to consult with the committee, which oversees communications issues, before negotiating on these issues in future treaties.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) had tried to get Sec. 230 language scrubbed from the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) struck under President Trump, but the language remained.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.