The U.S. House and Senate both announced legislation to include an exemption for civil rights in the Section 230 of the Communications Act. Joint Center President Spencer Overton included the proposal to include the civil rights exemption in the Section 230 act in his law review article State Power to Regulate Social Media Companies to Prevent Voter Suppression (pages 1827-28).
The House bill, Civil Rights Modernization Act of 2021, would amend Section 230 of the Communications Act to make explicit that platforms that target housing, employment, financial services, and similar ads away from communities of color are not exempt from civil rights laws while the Senate bill, Safeguarding Against Fraud, Exploitation, Threats, Extremism and Consumer Harms (SAFE TECH) Act, would explicitly say that platforms aren’t exempt from civil rights laws, cyber-stalking, targeted harassment, antitrust laws, international human rights laws, and wrongful death actions.
Joint Center President Spencer Overton stated that the draft House bill is “thoughtful and tailored [and] addresses a real problem in advancing platform accountability.” Spencer also provided a comment on the Senate bill: “Platforms should not profit from targeting employment ads toward White users, or from targeting voter suppression ads toward Black users. Senator Warner and Senator Hirono’s comprehensive bill makes it clear that Section 230 does not give platforms a free pass to violate civil rights laws, while also preserving the power of platforms to remove harmful disinformation.”