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The US Week Ahead: Congress to assess law with liability shield for big tech


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The US Week Ahead: Congress to assess law with liability shield for big tech

Congress returns from a two-week recess this week and one of the most cherished legal protections for edge providers will be under the spotlight.

On Oct. 16, two subcommittees of the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce will hold a joint hearing titled, "Fostering a Healthier Internet to Protect Consumers."

According to a committee announcement, the hearing will explore "online content moderation practices and whether consumers are adequately protected under current law, including the protections Congress granted in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act."

Social media is shielded from some of the laws that apply to newspapers by the Section 230 law, which exempts providers and users of "interactive computer services" from liability for content published on platforms by third parties. Any changes to the law would significantly impact the way that social media companies publish content, and big tech companies have lobbied against such changes even as federal legislators from both political parties have signaled interest in reforming the law.

Some Republican members of Congress have suggested reforms to the law may be necessary after citing instances of perceived bias against conservative viewpoints.

Multiple members of a U.S. Senate Committee also raised the idea of making changes to the law earlier this year after a series of mass shootings in which perpetrators were active in posting hateful views online prior to committing acts of violence.

Policy officials from Facebook Inc., Alphabet Inc.'s Google LLC and Twitter Inc. have repeatedly insisted that the law is essential for them.

At the recent Senate hearing in September, Derek Slater, global director of information policy for Google, said the law is "part of the reason we have been a leader in economic growth and innovation and technological development."

Nick Pickles, public policy director at Twitter, also called it a "fundamental part of maintaining a competitive online ecosystem."

In an interview with Recode earlier this year, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called the law a "gift" to tech companies and said the law could be in jeopardy.

Witnesses for the hearing include Katherine Oyama, global head of intellectual property policy at Google and Steve Huffman, co-founder and CEO of Reddit Inc.


Oct. 16 Two subcommittees of the House Energy and Commerce Committee will host a joint hearing on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
Oct. 16 The House Committee on Homeland Security will host a hearing titled "Public-Private Initiatives to Secure the Supply Chain."
Oct. 17 A subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations will host an oversight hearing of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission.
Oct. 18 The House Committee on Financial Services will host a hearing titled "AI and the Evolution of Cloud Computing: Evaluating How Financial Data is Stored, Protected, and Maintained by Cloud Providers."
Industry, legal and think tank events
Oct. 14-18 WISPA, an advocacy group representing wireless internet service providers, will host a conference titled "WISPAPALOOZA" in Las Vegas.
Oct. 15 The Hudson Institute, an economic think tank, will host an event titled "Securing 5G Technology: Will Government or Industry Lead?" in Washington, D.C.
Oct. 16-17 The National Association of Broadcasters will host an event titled "NAB Show New York" in New York.
Oct. 16-18 The Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband Coalition will host its annual conference in Arlington, Va.
Oct. 17 Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will participate in a conversation on free expression at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.
Oct. 17 The Brookings Institution will host an event titled "The future of work in Africa: Opportunities and challenges of digital technologies" in Washington, D.C.
Oct. 18

The Federal Communications Bar Association will host an event titled "Legislative and Wireless Committee Brown Bag Lunch" in Washington, D.C.

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