The legislative concepts, revealed within a GOP House Energy and Commerce memo of options under consideration issued Thursday, are primarily directed on social media content moderation policies and Section 230 reform, the controversial 1996 law that gives platforms legal protection for user-generated content.
The memo further sketches new protections for children online and requires Big Tech companies to work with law enforcement in certain examples in which safety and security have been broken or the law has been broken.
Republican staff called the memo "a framework to bring much-needed reform and oversight to Big Tech." Republicans have grown more critical of the tech industry in recent years, blaming top companies, especially social media platforms, for pervasive prejudice.
The document defines Big Tech companies as social media platforms, app stores, and tech companies with an annual revenue of $1 billion and up. Republicans want legislation that classifies such Big Tech companies as "places of public accommodation," or privately owned facilities that are used by the public at large and so are banned from discriminating based on aspects such as race, religion, nationality, and political affiliation or view.
The memo proposes that Big Tech companies perform reasonable content moderation practices for illegal content such as child pornography and trafficking, drug sales, terrorism, and counterfeit products.
“Require Big Tech companies to implement and maintain reasonable and user friendly appeals processes for users to challenge content moderation decisions on constitutionally protected speech as well as decisions about suspending or deplatforming users. The appeals process must clearly explain the company’s content moderation policies and identify the specific provision(s) the content or user violated and why. “
It further demands to limit tech companies' legal protections under Section 230 to "only provide liability protection for moderation of speech that is not protected by the First Amendment or specifically listed in the statute."
“Remove liability protection under Section 230 for content moderation decisions made by Big Tech companies that discriminate based on political affiliation or viewpoint. “
Big Tech companies that are given permission for Section 230 legal protections should have to apply for this privilege every five years, according to the memo.
Republicans would further like to see Big Tech platforms implement and maintain user-friendly appeals processes for users to challenge content moderation decisions they disagree with.