KEY POINTS

  • Attorney General William Barr questioned Wednesday the necessity of legal protection for companies such as Facebook and Google, which shield online platforms from being held responsible for posted content from third-party users
  • Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act was originally intended to protect small tech startups from burdensome litigation
  • Trump has criticized Google and Facebook for supposedly censoring conservative content

Attorney General William Barr on Wednesday questioned the necessity of legal protection for big tech firms such as Google and Facebook that allows the companies to avoid responsibility for content posted by third-party users. 

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act protects online platforms such as Google and Facebook from being treated as publishers, and shields these firms from lawsuits. The protection was initially intended to allow startup companies to thrive without fear of litigation.

Google and Facebook currently maintain community standards for content on their platforms, deleting misleading or harmful content. 

Barr said these companies should be held more legally responsible for content posted on their platforms due to the influence exerted on public discourse.

“No longer are technology companies the underdog upstarts,” Barr said. “They have become titans of U.S. industry.” He added that “valid questions have been raised as to whether Section 230′s broad immunity is still needed.”

Members of the Trump administration have routinely criticized big tech companies such as Facebook and Google for allegedly censoring conservative views. President Trump has said that Google’s search engine results skewed in favor of his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton and cost him millions of votes during the 2016 election.

Lawmakers also have questioned whether the big tech firms should be broken up and the Justice Department is conducting an antitrust examination.

In Europe, American tech companies will soon have to comply with new European Union regulations in the fields of data sharing and artificial intelligence. The EU will also unveil new liability rules for digital content posted on online platforms by the end of the year as part of the bloc’s Digital Services Act.