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US Justice Department proposes to weaken safe harbour to platforms like Facebook, Twitter

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The US Department of Justice on Wednesday proposed a slew of amendments to essentially dilute a law which offers safe harbour to platforms which host user generated content, such as YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. The proposed changes will take away protection from platforms granted to them under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, if they remove content they deem “otherwise objectionable", or if they censor "lawful speech". The department also added additional categories of content which platforms will have to remove to maintain protection, including content which terrorism or violent extremism, among other things. However, at the same time, platforms will have to show an “objectively reasonable belief” about why they removed a certain piece of content. A draft of the legislation has been sent to the US Congress. Also, per the proposal, a platform will lose protection under the act if it fails to “expeditiously remove, restrict access to or availability of, or prevent dissemination of the specific instance of material”, and “take reasonable steps” to restrict access to such content. It will also have to report such content or activity to law enforcement agencies “when required by law or as otherwise necessary to prevent imminent harm”. The changes also propose that platforms preserve evidence of such content or activity for at least one year, if they want protection under the act. This comes after US President Donald Trump, in May, passed an executive order to restrict social media companies from taking down posts on their platforms. This…

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