(RepublicanPress.org) – The privately funded Future of Tech Commission recently released a poll showing that 90% of registered voters support strong online privacy protections, and about 80% “strongly support” holding social media companies accountable for “illegal and harmful content” posted on their platforms. Likewise, 83% of Democrats and 78% of Republicans said they believed the federal government needed to do everything within its power to “curb the influence of big tech companies.”
The poll also focused on the concerns of parents regarding their children’s online activities. Sixty percent of them said they felt they had “no control” over their children’s web surfing habits, and 85% indicated they wanted the government to designate schools as online “privacy zones.”
A week later, on September 30, Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) announced his introduction of new legislation aimed at creating tort liability for social media companies that cause mental or physical harm to children with their respective platforms.
Senator Hawley’s Plan to Hold Social Media Companies Accountable
Called the Federal Big Tech Tort Act (FBTTA), the measure would put an end to a loophole provided by Section 230 of the United States Communications Decency Act (1996). The statute provides legal protections to online companies with respect to users’ posts and other forms of third-party content.
The FBTTA effectively bypasses Section 230 protections and allows anyone under the age of 16 to sue social media companies if they suffered “bodily injury or harm to mental health” related to the use of their websites.
According to the FBTTA, claimants prevailing in court can claim compensatory damages using various formulas. Those damages could reach as high as the annual earnings of the offending company in the United States. Petitioners can also collect punitive damages and attorney’s fees and costs. If the measure passes, it will go into effect 180 days after its enactment date.
Hawley Speaks Out
Sen. Hawley had plenty to say about big tech companies when he announced the FBTTA. Of particular note was his assertion that Facebook has known about its platform’s harmful effects on children for a long time. A spokesperson for Hawley said that social media platforms shouldn’t be permitted to “continue profiting from exploiting children.”
Hawley’s announcement also referenced a Wall Street Journal report from September 14 discussing the fact that Facebook knew its Instagram platform provided a toxic environment for teenage girls.
The Wall Street Journal explained that Facebook’s “in-depth” internal research showed the platform created significant mental health issues for young users.
It’s high time someone stood up to big tech companies. For far too long, they have operated under a veil of secrecy reinforced by Section 230 protections.
Copyright 2021, RepublicanPress.org