Sen. Mitch McConnell: Senate Will Launch Look at Sec. 230

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Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said that this week the Senate "will begin a process" of bringing the priority of reviewing and potentially revising Sec. 230 "into focus."

That came in his opening remarks on the Senate floor Tuesday (Dec. 29) as the Senate prepared to vote Wednesday to override the President's veto of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), in part over its lack of amendments related to website providers' Sec. 230 immunity from civil liability over their moderation of third-party content.

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The President delayed signing the COVID-19 aid bill and omnibus government funding bill until the weekend, and suggested he had decided to sign them then in part because "Congress has promised that Section 230, which so unfairly benefits Big Tech at the expense of the American people, will be reviewed and either be terminated or substantially reformed," he said in a statement after signing the bills, adding: "Big Tech must not get protections of Section 230!"

McConnell applauded the President's signature on those bills as well as his highlighting of the Sec. 230 issue as one of "national significance" that he [Trump] would like to see Congress tackle. McConnell said there was support on both sides of the aisle for "at least" reexamining the [Sec. 230] immunity," including the ways it benefits some of the most prosperous, most powerful, Big Tech firms."

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Since both Democrats and Republicans support such a review, though disagree over why that is necessary and what should happen next, McConnell was not breaking any new ground in beginning a process to bring the issue into focus. 

Republicans who otherwise support the President took to the floor to say that Sec. 230 was a separate issue that deserved attention but did not belong on the NDAA and his veto should be overridden.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) said the power of social media platforms to censor speech is "troubling indeed." He said that with media outlets and other alternatives fading away, more people are relying on Facebook and Google and other internet platforms to get their information." He said they have become de facto public forums and deserve the scrutiny the President wants them to get.

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.