- The Washington Times
Monday, February 1, 2021

Sens. Joe Manchin III and John Cornyn on Monday proposed to fight the war on drugs by removing legal liability protections afforded to tech platforms for content posted by their users online.

Lawmakers have proposed changing the liability protections contained in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act as a tool to further a wide swath of policy solutions, including fighting child exploitation, punishing alleged anti-conservative political bias within Big Tech companies, and modifying national security policy.

The “See Something, Say Something Online Act” introduced by the West Virginia Democrat and Texas Republican adds illicit drug sales to the list of ailments that lawmakers propose to remedy through overhauling Section 230.

“Each year, authorities seize enough fentanyl to kill every American four times over, much of it ordered over the Internet and sent by mail from China,” Mr. Manchin said in a statement. “We must amend Section 230 to better reflect the way the Internet impacts our lives today — both good and bad. Senator Cornyn and I reintroduced our bipartisan legislation that uses a commonsense approach to create a clear mechanism for reporting criminal activity online, requiring companies to take reasonable steps to report unlawful activity or be held liable for that failure.”

Mr. Cornyn said in a statement that “it’s past time” for tech platforms to play a role to better prevent high-level drug offenses documented online.

The duo’s proposal plans to make this happen by requiring companies to report suspicious activity to law enforcement, with the reports landing in a new office created with the Department of Justice to review the red flags raised by the companies. If companies fail to take steps to address illicit activity on their platforms, the new bill proposes to hold them liable for failing to report criminal activity.

The proposed bill stresses that it does not intend to remove Section 230 protections for all companies addressing the issue of criminals using their platforms to enable their drug crimes, violent crimes, or terrorist acts.

Mr. Manchin and Mr. Cornyn’s proposal reveals the far-reaching appetite for changing Section 230 in Congress. Mr. Cornyn previously opposed former President Trump’s efforts to change a major defense policy bill at the end of 2020 over concerns about Section 230 and said in December that he thought the Judiciary Committee should review the liability protections.

The Texas Republican’s support for changing Section 230 in 2021 signals that GOP lawmakers’ desire to change the online liability protections looks to be outlasting Mr. Trump’s administration and his policy agenda.

• Ryan Lovelace can be reached at rlovelace@washingtontimes.com.

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