September 16, 2021

Cassidy Cosponsors Bipartisan Bill to Reform Section 230, Expose Big Tech Bias

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA) co-sponsored the bipartisan Platform Accountability and Transparency (PACT) Act, originally introduced by Senators John Thune (R-SD) and Brian Schatz (D-HI). The PACT Act would increase accountability for big internet platforms and enhance transparency regarding content moderation for online consumers. It would preserve the benefits of Section 230, which has governed internet development for more than 20 years, while making significant reforms to better protect Americans during their online experience.

“Big tech should not be able to take down content without explanation. This bill brings greater transparency to social media platforms to better protect all Americans,” said Dr. Cassidy.  

Enacted in 1996, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1934 offers broad immunity to internet companies for hosting user-generated content and provides protection for platforms that take an active role moderating content on their sites. More than two decades later, while Section 230 has allowed the internet economy to thrive, these protections have led to inconsistent, opaque content moderation practices, a lack of online platform accountability, and an inability to enforce federal regulations in the digital world. 

The PACT Act creates more transparency by:

  • Requiring online platforms to explain their content moderation practices in an acceptable use policy that is easily accessible to consumers;
  • Implementing a quarterly reporting requirement for online platforms that includes disaggregated statistics on content that has been removed, demonetized, or deprioritized; and
  • Promoting open collaboration and sharing of industry best practices and guidelines through a National Institute of Standards and Technology-led voluntary framework.

The PACT Act will hold platforms accountable by:

  • Requiring large online platforms to provide process protections to consumers by having a defined complaint system that processes reports and notifies users of moderation decisions within 14 days, and allows consumers to appeal online platforms’ content moderation decisions within the relevant company;
  • Amending Section 230 to require large online platforms to remove court-determined illegal content and activity within 24 hours; and
  • Allowing small online platforms to have more flexibility in responding to user complaints, removing illegal content, and acting on illegal activity, based on their size and capacity.

The PACT Act will protect consumers by:

  • Exempting the enforcement of federal civil laws from Section 230 so that online platforms cannot use it as a defense when federal regulators, like the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission, pursue civil actions for online activity;
  • Allowing state attorneys general to enforce federal civil laws against online platforms that have the same substantive elements of the laws and regulations of that state; and
  • Requiring the Government Accountability Office to study and report on the viability of an FTC-administered whistleblower program for employees or contractors of online platforms.