Schatz, Thune Reintroduce Legislation To Update Section 230, Strengthen Rules, Transparency On Online Content Moderation, Hold Internet Companies Accountable For Moderation Practices

Bipartisan PACT Act Repeals Immunity From Civil Actions Brought By Federal Agencies, Empowers State AGs To Enforce Section 230, Protect Consumers

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) and John Thune (R-S.D.) reintroduced the Platform Accountability and Consumer Transparency (PACT) Act, bipartisan legislation to update Section 230 of the Communications Act. The PACT Act will make platforms’ content moderation practices more transparent and hold those companies accountable for content that violates their own policies or is illegal.

“Section 230 gave internet companies the flexibility to grow the internet economy along with the responsibility of setting and enforcing reasonable rules on content. After 25 years, it is clear that some companies have not done enough. We need some common-sense reforms,” said Senator Schatz. “Our bipartisan bill updates Section 230 by making platforms more accountable for their content moderation policies and providing more tools to protect consumers.”

“The bipartisan PACT Act is a common-sense legislative approach to preserve user-generated content and free speech on the internet, while increasing consumer transparency and the accountability of big internet platforms. As the previous chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee and current ranking member of the Subcommittee on Communications, Media, and Broadband, I’ve been working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for years to pursue policies that protect online consumers by giving them more control of their online experience. This legislation would take several meaningful steps in the right direction, and it’s a big win for America’s ever-expanding digital landscape and the consumers who depend on it,” said Senator Thune.

Enacted in 1996, Section 230 of the Communications Act of 1934 offers broad immunity to internet companies for hosting user-generated content and provides protection for platforms that take an active role moderating content on their sites. More than two decades later, while Section 230 has allowed the internet economy to thrive, these protections have led to inconsistent, opaque content moderation practices, a lack of online platform accountability, and an inability to enforce federal regulations in the digital world.

The Schatz-Thune PACT Act creates more transparency by:

  • Requiring online platforms to explain their content moderation practices in an acceptable use policy that is easily accessible to consumers;
  • Implementing a biannual reporting requirement for online platforms that includes disaggregated statistics on content that has been removed, demonetized, or deprioritized; and
  • Promoting open collaboration and sharing of industry best practices and guidelines through a National Institute of Standards and Technology-led voluntary framework.

The PACT Act will hold platforms accountable by:

  • Requiring large online platforms to provide due process protections to consumers by having a defined complaint system that processes reports and notifies users of moderation decisions within twenty-one days, and allows consumers to appeal online platforms’ content moderation decisions;
  • Amending Section 230 to require that large online platforms remove court-determined illegal content and activity within four days; and
  • Allowing smaller online platforms to have more flexibility in responding to user complaints, removing illegal content, and acting on illegal activity, based on their size and capacity.

The PACT Act will protect consumers by:

  • Exempting the enforcement of federal civil laws from Section 230 so that online platforms cannot use it as a defense when federal regulators, like the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission, pursue civil actions online;
  • Allowing state attorneys general to enforce federal civil laws against online platforms; and
  • Requiring the Government Accountability Office to study and report on the viability of a FTC-administered whistleblower program for employees or contractors of online platforms.

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