Sec. 230 Language Remains in USMCA

Social media platforms will continue to be held harmless for third-party content on their web sites according to the compromise on the U.S Mexico Canada Agreement trade deal announced by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) Tuesday (Dec. 10). 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi

The revised version of the Trump-backed USMCA was needed if the Democratically controlled House and Repubican-controlled Senate are going to sign off on it, but one thing that was retained was the liability-related language. 

Related: Big Tech's Sec. 230 Sweetheart Deal Must End 

Pelosi last week had tried to get that language cut as legislators from both sides of the aisle continue to ponder whether web giants still need that liability protection, but was not about to jeopardize the deal over the issue. 

She said it was her one disappointment that she came in too late with that 230 ask. "I lost," she said flatly in a press conference following the agreement's announcement. But she was in some ways the author of her own defeat. "They had 230 in the agreement, which she called the wrong way to go and a "gift to big tech." But she had told the U.S. Trade Representative that she was not going to add any more issues to the discussion.   

She had gotten a letter from the chairman and ranking member of the House Energy & Commerce Committee both asking that the language be removed, but that it came after she had pledged not to raise any more issues, so her Sec. 230 ask had to go unanswered or else she would have been moving a line she had herself agreed to draw.  

USMCA said that maintaining the civil liability carve-out "enhances the economic viability of these engines of growth that depend on user interaction and user content." 

Pelosi has a curious political ally in her skepticism of Sec. 230.  

Attorney General Bob Barr, who has challenged the underpinnings of the impeachment effort Pelosi has pushed forward, agrees that there are Sec. 230 issues that need a hard look, a point he made in a speech in Washington this week.  

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.