Cruz Against Section 230 Repeal; GOP at Odds Over Liability Shield
Repealing Section 230 isn’t the “right answer” for holding tech platforms accountable, Senate Commerce Committee ranking member Ted Cruz, R-Texas, told us last week.
His comments came after the Senate Judiciary Committee debated the issue while hearing the latest whistleblower testimony against Meta and its handling of youth mental health issues. Ranking member Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., expects Chairman Dick Durbin, D-Ill., to hold a hearing on Communications Decency Act Section 230 soon (see 2311070069).
“I don’t think the right answer is a complete repeal of Section 230,” said Cruz, also a member of the Judiciary Committee. “I think in particular that would be very unlikely to reduce the online censorship from Big Tech. I think a much better solution is to use Section 230 liability protection as a safe harbor to incentivize Big Tech not to engage in censorship.”
Graham plans to introduce legislation with Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., to sunset Section 230. Whitehouse told us there’s clearly bipartisan support for a repeal. Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, have suggested they would support a repeal.
"I’d love to see the door open to a real conversation about repealing 230,” said Whitehouse. “The problem is once you’re through the strong, bipartisan support for repealing Section 230, you walk into, ‘What else do we do?’ And it’s in the what-else-do-we-do area that it gets partisan and complicated. But it’s good to open the door and start having that conversation.”
“More and more of my colleagues are joining me in supporting” a repeal, Blumenthal told us. Whistleblower Arturo Bejar, who worked at Meta as a security engineer, provided more hard evidence of Meta’s deliberate effort to conceal information from Congress, he said. Blumenthal is preparing to send Meta additional document requests with Senate Privacy Subcommittee ranking member Josh Hawley, R-Mo., to better understand Bejar’s communication with executives. That will help the subcommittee get into “specifics” about the allegations, said Hawley.
“I’m in favor” of repealing or modifying Section 230, Grassley told us. “That’s something I’ve been saying for two or three years.”
Like Cruz, Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., doesn’t think a full repeal is the right answer. However, he said the internet has created a “very different world” from when Section 230 was implemented, so it’s worth “modernizing” the statute. Terrorist activity is one reason for modernization, he said, citing Hamas fundraising efforts on social media. “I don’t know that we have to repeal it,” he said. “I think that we have to update it and maybe repurpose it. I don’t think an all-out repeal would be the end result of the process.”
Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., said Congress should be careful not to "damage" the “entrepreneurial” potential of the internet. Repealing Section 230 would be a drastic step, he said: “I’m trying to figure out what the right answer is.”