The DOJ official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a recommendation that has not been officially announced. The DOJ did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Attorney General William P. Barr has teased such a recommendation for months, swiping at Silicon Valley in February out of concern that it failed to crack down on terrorist content, child exploitation and illicit drug sales, areas the DOJ’s recommendation is expected to address.
“No longer are tech companies the underdog upstarts,” Barr said in a speech, reflecting on the origin of the statute. “They have become titans.”
On one hand, Democrats and Republicans alike have found rare accord in attacking Section 230, fearing the decades-old legal shield has outlived its usefulness. The 1990s-era law, adopted to spare tech companies in their infancy from a raft of lawsuits they never would have survived, now protects some of the most profitable companies in the world from liability.
Democrats say the law effectively allows Facebook, Google, Twitter and a wide array of sites to skirt accountability for allowing political falsehoods, election disinformation, hate speech and other harmful content to go viral. Some have threatened to revoke Section 230 protections, particularly out of concern that tech giants have not acted aggressively or swiftly enough to protect their platforms from abuse.
Republicans, however, have focused their attention on perceived political censorship against conservatives, undermining at times even a loose consensus on a need to reform federal law. To that end, the DOJ’s actions this week may invite more skepticism than support in some corners of Congress, even among lawmakers who share a belief that Section 230 requires an update.
The DOJ recommendation follows roughly two weeks after President Trump signed an executive order that could open the door for the U.S. government to assume oversight of political speech on the Internet, a move that tech-industry critics soon challenged in federal court as a violation of the First Amendment.
The Wall Street Journal first reported the news of the Justice Department recommendation.
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