Chair of key U.S. House subcommittee eyes online election content changes

FILE PHOTO: Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) speaks during a news conference on the Trump Administration's tax cuts at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center in Washington, U.S., on June 22, 2018. REUTERS/Toya Sarno Jordan/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The chair of a key U.S. House Committee on consumer protection said she is exploring legislation around a federal law that exempts online platforms from legal liability for the material their users post, focusing on online content posted on elections.

Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act provides immunity to companies such as Facebook, Alphabet’s Google and Twitter for content posted by users, although companies can still be held liable for content that violates criminal or intellectual property law.

“I’m really worried about this... this idea that whatever content is paid for and posted, they have no responsibility for,” said Representative Jan Schakowsky, who chairs the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on consumer protection and commerce.

Her bill would not envisage a “massive change” in the legislation, “but just a couple of specifics when it comes to what kind of limits we want to set on election stuff,” she told reporters at the sidelines of a technology conference.

Some lawmakers and experts want the companies to bear more responsibility for policing their services, which could steeply increase costs for the internet companies.

Advocates of the law have argued it encourages free expression and has helped the rapid growth of internet companies over the past 20 years.

The U.S. Justice Department plans to hold a meeting to discuss the same federal law in early February.

Reporting by Nandita Bose in Washington; editing by Richard Pullin