The PACT Act is a new bipartisan effort to reform Section 230, the crucial liability shield that enables internet platforms to exist, approaching the law’s shortcomings “with a scalpel rather than a jackhammer,” as Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) describes it. It is a welcome alternative to the dangerous EARN IT Act and risible executive order also in the running.
Section 230 protects companies online from being liable for content posted by their users, as long as those companies remove illegal content when it is pointed out to them. Politicians have recently characterized it as an excuse for companies like Facebook and Twitter to control speech on their platform and avoid responsibility for shoddy or arbitrary moderation policies.
But the two most high-profile attempts to change this law, which arguably made the modern internet possible, are riddled with problems. The EARN IT Act is widely understood to be an end run against encryption by an impotent and furious Justice Department. President Trump’s recent executive order, in addition to plainly being retaliation against Twitter for fact-checking his tweets, doesn’t actually appear to do much of anything.
Yet there is growing consensus that Section 230, while it has filled its purpose admirably for two decades, needs to be adjusted to accommodate for a changed digital environment. To that end, Sen. Schatz and his colleague Sen. John Thune (R-SD), leaders of the Communications, Technology, Innovation and Internet Subcommittee, are proposing a reasonable alternative.
“The best thing we can do for the