Social media companies to account for their content
JOHANNESBURG - IN NOVEMBER last year, both Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter’s Jack Dorsey appeared before the US Senate Judiciary Committee to discuss the impact of their platforms on American democracy and society at large.
The companies have been accused of enabling fake news and other forms of misinformation on their platforms without being accountable for it.
Up to today, social media companies based in the US have largely been safe from any kind of legal action, thanks to a decade-old law that shields them from lawsuits over the content their users post.
The bill, named Section 230, shields social media companies from liability for content published by users of their platforms. The 1996 law is widely credited with cultivating the modern internet.
Now, new legislation from Senator Mark Warner will make changes to the bill. Democrat Warner introduced the Safe Tech Act to the Senate on February 5. This bill would essentially update the protections that social media corporations would have enjoyed under section 230 and hold them more accountable for the content that is posted on their platforms and expose them to many more lawsuits.
What lies at the heart of this though, is the voices of the users of social media platforms. They would need to be a lot more rules put in place and a lot more moderators working around the clock to make sure that these rules are being adhered to.
In a tweet, Warner said that “The SAFE TECH Act doesn’t interfere with free speech – it’s about allowing these platforms to finally be held accountable for harmful, often criminal, behaviour enabled by their platforms to which they have turned a blind eye for too long.”
Should this bill be successful, it will certainly be a game-changer for the way social media companies are run if they don't want to be caught on the wrong side of the law.
The new legislation also opens the door for internet firms to be held liable in situations of cyberstalking, targeted harassment, and discrimination.