Lauren Feiner, CNBC, February 19, 2020
Attorney General William Barr took aim Wednesday at a key legal protection for the tech industry, calling into question whether it is still needed as a small number of key tech players have reached a massive size and scale.
Besides questions of anticompetitive behavior, Barr said at a Department of Justice workshop, the agency is considering what a concentrated tech market means for a legal immunity originally created to help small start-ups thrive.
Barr convened the workshop to discuss Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which says tech companies cannot be held legally liable for content posted by third-party users. The law protects online platforms from being treated as publishers, which can be held legally liable for publishing misleading or harmful content, even if they choose to moderate or remove objectionable content from their platforms.
The law has been massively important in allowing some of the biggest tech firms, including Facebook and Google, to grow while maintaining community standards on their platforms and without becoming buried by lawsuits.
But at the workshop, Barr said the industry Section 230 protects is no longer a fragile, emerging sector.
“Law enforcement cannot delegate our obligations to protect the safety of the American people purely to the judgment of profit-seeking private firms,” Barr said. “We must shape the incentives for companies to create a safer environment, which is what Section 230 was originally intended to do.”
[Editor’s Note: Here is a clip of Attorney General Barr discussing Section 230 and how Big Tech firms ban and restrict speech.]