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Reps. to Trade Rep: Cut Sec. 230-Like Language from USMCA

The bipartisan leadership of the House Energy & Commerce Committee have told the Trump Administration's trade negotiators not to "export" language mirroring the current Sec. 230 (Communications Decency Act) protection of websites from liability for third party content. 

Rep. Frank Pallone

Rep. Frank Pallone

The letter to United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer came from Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-N.J.) and ranking member Greg Walden (R-Ore.). 

Both Democrats and Republicans are pondering whether that liability protection should still apply, and they don't want it to be boilerplate in trade agreements struck by the Administration, in particular its current appearance in the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). 

Reps. Pallone and Walden said they took no view on the debate, but called it inappropriate for the U.S. to include the language "while such serious policy discussions are going on." Even the author of the provision in law has questioned whether the edge should continue to get that protection

Related: Tech Groups Warn Against Gutting Sec. 230 

Sec. 230 was adopted by Congress under the theory that web platforms were simply the online public square of ideas and that to make them liable would blow up their business model, or at the time (1996), nip it in the bud.  

Rep. Greg Walden

Rep. Greg Walden

Related: Sen. Cruz Says Big Tech Needs to Prove No Bias Or Lose Sec. 230 

But in an age where the edge is under fire for allegations of bias, allegations of discrimination, and proven missteps in how they protect and share the data they vacuum up for targeted content, the section is under intense scrutiny. 

In a little bipartisan pushback on the Administration, or at least a yellow flag for holding back info, Pallone and Walden chided the USTR for not keeping them in the loop.  

"Given that our committee closely oversees Sec. 230 and all portions of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 we also hope in the future the Office of the United States Trade Representative will consult our Committee in advance of negotiating on these issues," they said. 

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.