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Senate to Vet Edge Provider Liability Bill

The Senate Judiciary Committee is considering a bill that could weaken the Sec. 230 shield Facebook, Twitter and other edge providers have against civil liability for third-party content on their websites. 

The committee has scheduled a hearing March 11 on The Eliminating Abusive and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies [EARN IT] Act." 

The bill, which was introduced by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), would amend Sec. 230 to say the third-party liability immunity does not extend to child exploitation laws, meaning a Facebook or Twitter could be held liable for posts that illegally exploit children. 

There has been bipartisan support for trying to make edge providers liable for content (Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) is also reportedly working on the bill), including from Sec. 230's author, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). 

The EARN IT bill would also establish a National Commission on Online Child Exploitation Prevention to establish best practices for preventing such exploitation. 

Some privacy advocates are pushing back hard on the bill. 

The Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF) argues that the bill is a threat to free speech and online security, the latter because encryption would be no defense against liability. 

EFF said the bill "opens the door for the government to require new measures to screen users’ speech and even back doors to read your private communications." 

John Eggerton
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.