Rep. Yvette Clarke Preps Sec. 230 Civil Rights Bill

Rep. Yvette Clarke
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Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.) is seeking comment on her bill, the Civil Rights Modernization Act, that would amend Sec. 230 of the Communications Act so that civil rights laws apply to targeted advertising and platforms hosting such ads are civilly liable for any civil rights law violation stemming from targeted ads.

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Clarke cites a history--not confined to online advertising--of excluding consumers from seeing certain ads--like real estate ad redlining--that limit the opportunities for communities of color and perpetuate inequities in housing, credit and employment.

Sec. 230 provides web sites with a shield against civil liability for most third-party content posted on their sites. 

"To comprehensively address these civil rights implications, Section 230 must be reformed," said Clarke. "This draft is a necessary step to addressing civil rights violations during these unprecedented times."

Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.), chairman of the House Communications Subcommittee, praised the bill. 

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“I applaud Congresswoman Clarke’s efforts to tackle this difficult and important issue,” he said. “We know all too well how marketing efforts have been targeted to exclude marginalized groups from voting, housing, job opportunities, and other beneficial economic activity. Modern technology makes addressing this challenge even more essential. We have seen through the pandemic, the racial justice movement, and the events that led to the attack on the Capitol on January 6th — as well as so many more issues that we have discussed over the last several years — that online platforms need greater accountability."

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Doyle promised to work with his colleagues on more legislative proposals "that together will form a comprehensive package to help reform existing law and ensure that online platforms are working to benefit our democracy and not against it.” 

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.