Beto O’Rourke seeks new limits on Section 230 as part of gun violence proposal

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2020 Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke announced a sweeping policy plan to counter hate speech and gun violence in America that specifically proposes changes to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, one of the tech industry’s most pivotal legal protections. Outside of proposing a nationwide gun licensing system/registry and requiring universal background checks, O’Rourke laid out a plan aimed at making social media companies like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube more responsible for hateful content on their platforms. In the proposal, O’Rourke says that he supports amending Section 230 to “remove legal immunity from lawsuits for large social media platforms” that refuse to be proactive in removing hate speech and terrorist content. The proposal calls on tech companies to more aggressively enforce policies against hate speech — with the potential withdrawal of 230 protections if they don’t — which may raise legal issues if implemented. Historically, bills requiring companies to moderate against legal speech have faced significant constitutional challenges under the First Amendment. Under O’Rourke’s proposal, companies like Facebook could be sued for not adopting terms of service requirements banning users from posting hateful content that “incite[s] or engage[s] in violence, intimidation, harassment, threats, or defamation” against others based on demographics like race, religion, immigration status, and gender identity.

Beto O’Rourke seeks new limits on Section 230 as part of gun violence proposal Combating Hate and Violence in America (Beto O'Rourke)