(Washington, D.C.) – The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law endorsed the ‘Safeguarding Against Fraud, Exploitation, Threats, Extremism and Consumer Harms (SAFE TECH) Act’ today, citing numerous provisions in the bill that strengthen the ability to hold online businesses accountable when they engage in violations of civil rights laws. The bill would make much-needed reforms to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which provides legal immunity to websites and other online services for the content created by their users. The following is a statement from David Brody, who leads the Digital Justice Initiative at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law:
“For far too long online platforms have placed profit over accountability and decency, and allowed misinformation, algorithmic discrimination, and online hate to be weaponized. When the Communications Decency Act was passed in 1996, no one imagined it would be used to shield the most valuable companies in the world from basic civil rights compliance. This bill would make irresponsible big tech companies accountable for the digital pollution they knowingly and willfully produce, while continuing to protect free speech online.
“Black Americans and other communities of color are frequent targets of online hate, threats and discrimination, and many of these online behaviors would not be tolerated if they occurred in a brick-and-mortar business. It is time that big tech stop treating our communities of color like second-class citizens, and give them the protection they deserve.”
The bill, which was introduced today by Senators Mark Warner, Amy Klobuchar and Mazie Hirono removes CDA 230 immunity for advertisements and other paid services, which means that if a platform is paid to distribute a piece of content, it can be held legally accountable for harms caused by that content. This will help combat discriminatory practices in advertising for housing, employment, credit, and other areas. In addition, the bill strengthens civil rights laws by holding online platforms accountable when someone uses their service to violate civil rights laws, such as planning a hate crime or engaging in voter suppression. By enacting targeted carve outs to CDA 230 instead of sweeping repeal, the bill preserves the fundamental structure and purpose of the Act while increasing accountability.
About the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law – The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers’ Committee), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination. The principal mission of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice for all, particularly in the areas of voting rights, criminal justice, fair housing and community development, economic justice, educational opportunities, and hate crimes. For more information, please visit https://lawyerscommittee.org.